- Group of 36, including ministers and first SLFP dissidents to walk out with MS, make representations
- Argues SLFP cannot run clean polls campaign with former President and cronies on ticket
- Will consider ‘options’ if President Sirisena grants Mahinda a nomination
In the backdrop of frantic negotiations to unite warring factions of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), 36 MPs loyal to the incumbent President have strongly urged him to refrain from joining forces with his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa at the forthcoming parliamentary poll.
Daily FT learns that the group, many of whom hold ministerial portfolios in the now caretaker Government established after the presidential election in January, met President Maithripala Sirisena last Friday (26) to put their case across.
The group included several SLFP members who had crossed over to join the Common Candidate movement with President Sirisena as soon as presidential elections were declared in November last year.
According to the sources, the group explained to the President that it would be impossible for the SLFP to conduct a clean election campaign if it had to accommodate former President Rajapaksa and other persons now perceived as corrupt by the public.
“We told him that to contest alone, with him as the leader would probably mean defeat. But that was still more dignified than joining forces with the Rajapaksa camp, which we all fought hard to defeat in January,” one Minister who attended the meeting said.
Several members of the group are mulling their options if President Sirisena agrees to give the former President a nomination.
With a majority of the SLFP backing a Rajapaksa candidacy, the pro-Maithripala group fears they will be dragged into an election campaign calling for his return to active politics.
Sections of the Mahinda camp have already framed their election campaign around bringing the former President back as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, Daily FT learns, even if the SLFP does not formally endorse Mahinda Rajapaksa as its Prime Minister candidate.
“We would have to make a choice then, to maintain our credibility and go with the party that is standing against corruption and nepotism,” the Minister from the group of 36 said.
The meeting came even as the SLFP Committee of Six, comprising General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, John Seneviratne and others were frantically engaged in attempts to unite the Maithripala and Mahinda factions of the party, to ensure the UNP does not gain an electoral advantage from a pre-poll split.
– See more at: http://www.ft.lk/article/439465/Better-defeat-than-contest-with-Mahinda–Pro-Maithri-SLFP-group-tells-Presidenthtml#sthash.XCKJfiLn.dpuf