CBK, Sirisena asked for UNP approval before going public – Announcement of common candidate:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Dissident SLFPer Maithripala Sirisena publicly announced his decision to switch allegiance to the Opposition yesterday soon after the main Opposition UNP unanimously accepted him as the Common Candidate.
Well informed sources told The Island that members of the Parliamentary Group, Working Committee as well as recently formed G20 had unanimously accepted UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proposal that Sirisena be named the Common Candidate.
Among those who had strongly backed Wickremesinghe’s move was Matara District MP Mangala Samaraweera. Responding to a query, sources said that the UNP had also decided that Wickremesinghe should be the Prime Minister of the next government.
As the largest constituent of the Opposition grouping, the UNP would spearhead the campaign, sources said. Deputy leader Sajith Premadasa and one-time Chairman Gamini Jayawickreme Perera was among those present at the meeting. The UNP unanimously decided to throw its weight behind Sirisena amidst a last minute bid by a trade union affiliated to the party to pressure the Working Committee to nominate Wickremesinghe as the UNP candidate.
The trade union led by Ananda Palitha also urged the party to contest the poll under the Elephant symbol. Sources said that particular bid had been made at the behest of a UNPer bitter about the party reaching an agreement with Sirisena and Kumaratunga.
Asked whether the Working Committee had also met as scheduled in the evening, sources said that members gathered at Sirikotha to reiterate commitment to ensure Sirisena’s victory. Sources said that the meeting had been held after Sirisena’s media conference, where he outlined the arrangement with the UNP as well as other groups, including Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha’s Movement for Just Society.
Sources said that Sirisena would receive the backing of the JHU.
JVP sources told The Island that the JVP too, would campaign against the incumbent President, though it may not join Sirisena on stage.
Sources said that Democratic Party leader Gen. Sarath Fonseka, too, would join the campaign.