COLOMBO: Colombo district, Sri Lanka’s most populous electoral district with a 1.5 million strong electorate and 19 seats, will see top leaders of the various political parties fight it out in the August 17 parliamentary elections.
The United National Party (UNP) is fielding Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakse, Power Minister P.Champika Ranawaka, and four junior ministers. The party is also fielding two Indian-Origin Tamils, Mano Ganeshan and S.Kuhavaradhan, and three Muslims, Mujibur Rahman, Feroza Muzammil and S.M.Marikkar. It has fielded two popular women leaders, Child Affairs Minister, Rosy Senanayake, and the up and coming leader, Hirunika Premachandra.
The United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is putting up its General Secretary, Susil Premajayantha, current Minister Thilanga Sumathipala, and former Ministers Dinesh Gunawardene, Wimal Weerawansa, Bandula Gunawardene, Gamini Lokuge, and Rohitha Bogollagama.
Significantly, there are no Tamils in the UPFA list. The solitary Muslim is F.Mohamed. The UPFA is not aiming at the Muslim and Tamil votes this time, as these are expected to go to the UNP-led United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG).
In the UNP’s list of candidates for the nominated “National List” of 29 seats, there are 9 Muslims and three Tamils. The UPFA’s National List has less, 5 Muslims and 2 Tamils.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is fielding its leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and trade union chief Lal Kantha in Colombo District. The list includes one Muslim, F.M.Mohamed. The Democratic Party is putting up Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has switched from his sparsely populated native district of Humbantota to Kurunegala District which is the second most populous district in Lanka with 17 parliamentary seats. Rajapaksa intends to show his rivals, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, that he can win with a huge margin of preferential votes from one of the most populous areas of the country. Kurunegala may make this possible because it is considered to be an UPFA stronghold.
In the last parliamentary elections held in 2010, immediately after the end of Eelam War IV in 2009, the UPFA got 51.19 percent of the votes polled and won 10 of the 19 seats in Colombo district. The UNP got 36.17 percent and secured 7 seats, while the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), comprising Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic Party (DP) and the JVP, secured 2 seats. It remains to be seen if the anti-Rajapaksa wave seen in the January 8, 2015 Presidential election, will appear again during the August parliamentary elections.
Sirisena To Be Neutral
Meanwhile, sources close to President Sirisena told Express that because of the inclusion of his rival, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the UPFA list, Sirisena will be “neutral” in the elections and not come out openly in support of the UPFA, though he is its Chairman. The sources said that the President will issue a statement in a day or two.