Sri Lanka President bows to media attacks, forecasts Mahinda defeat
ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena Tuesday moved to deflect mounting media criticism over granting nominations to his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa and made it clear that his UPFA was set to lose the upcoming election.
A visibly hurt Sirisena told reporters at his secretariat in Fort that he had been vilified, lampooned and lambasted by both the traditional press and social media in the past two weeks.
"I don’t think any Sri Lankan leader had been attack the way I was targeted in the past two weeks," Sirisena said. "It is possible because of the media freedom you enjoy after January 8."
However, it was clear that the scathing attacks had got under his skin reducing him to tears.
Sirisena went public giving details of how he tried to block Mahinda Rajapaksa getting nominations from the United people’s Freedom Alliance, but a majority in the party wanted him in the fray.
"I told him Tamil and Muslim people of this country will not vote for you. There was a wave sweeping all over the world against corruption and mis-use of power.
"I told him that educated, thinking people, the middle classes expect me to bring good governance. You are lacking in that area.
"Young people will not vote for you due to the big wrongs committed during your period, due to your feudal behaviour and nepotism.
"So please do not come forward at this election and defeat this party."
He said party seniors were livid when he suggested that Rajapaksa should stay away.
"They (party leaders) went away from this very room calling me all kinds of names," Sirisena told reporters. "Only if these walls could speak."
He stressed that Rajapaksa who lost the January 8 election was set for a repeat performance but this time he would take the UPFA down with him.
"During his period in power, he removed the term limits on the presidency so that no one else could become the president (from the UPFA). After losing the presidency and entering parliamentary elections as the first defeated president, he wants to make sure others in the UPFA have no chance to become Prime Minister.
However, Sirisena said he would never consider Rajapaksa a prime ministerial candidate.
There was no immediate comment from Rajapaksa or his loyalists who were stung by the unexpected outburst by Sirisena days ahead of the party’s maiden election rally in Anuradhapura.