By Shamindra Ferdinando
The SLMC has refrained from fielding a Muslim candidate on the UNP nomination list for the Colombo electoral district in a bid to garner the support of the entire community to Premier and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the August 17 parliamentary polls. An eight-day nominations period for the polls closed at noon yesterday.
SLMC leader and Minister Rauff Hakeem said that his party would go flat out in Colombo during nearly five-week long campaign. Hakeem was responding to a query by The Island soon after Premier Wickremesinghe accommodated the Eksath Jathika
Yahapalana Peramuna (formerly JHU) and a breakaway faction of the SLFP (Democratic National Movement) in UNP lists.
Hakeem said that he would be among 10 candidates receiving UNP ticket from several districts, except Vanni and Batticaloa where the party would go it alone under its own tress symbol. The SLMC strategy in Colombo was meant to ensure all its supporters exercised at least one vote for the UNP leader, Hakeem said. Responding to a query, the SLMC chief asserted that their campaign would definitely have a positive impact in other electoral districts where SLMC candidates were on the UNP ticket.
The SLMC played a pivotal role in Maithripala Sirisena’s victory at the January 10 presidential election, with the Muslim community giving some significant electoral victories, Minister said, adding that overwhelming majority received by the incumbent President at Muttur electorate was a case in point. Maithripala Sirisena polled 57,532 (87.54 per cent) against Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 7,132 (10.85 per cent) in predominately Muslim Muttur electorate.
The SLMC switched its allegiance to the then SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena just weeks before the January 8, 2015, presidential poll. The SLMC contested the April 2010 general election on the UNP ticket, though it subsequently switched sides to vote for the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
Hakeem said that the minority vote would largely go to the ruling alliance not only in the northern and eastern electoral districts but districts outside as well. The UPFA had done absolutely nothing to reassure minorities since last year’s premeditated attacks on Muslims in the Kalutara district. The return of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to parliamentary politics had prompted minorities to gather around Premier Wickremesinghe-led alliance.
The UNP leader could guarantee post-war Sri Lanka desired, Hakeem said, expressing confidence that the electorate would give a commanding position in the next parliament to the ruling alliance.
Addressing the media at Temple Trees on Sunday, Minister Hakeem assured his party would vigorously campaign to ensure the formation of a stable government under Wickremesinghe’s leadership.