ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena’s party today firmly rejected a bid by smaller allies to make his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate.
Former MP, Vasudeva Nanayakkara said talks among leaders of the United People’s Freedom Alliance ended in failure a short while ago as Sirisena did not favour a comeback by Rajapaksa.
"Our talks this evening were a complete waste of our efforts," Nanayakkara said. "We wanted to the UPFA to face the general election with Mahinda Rajapaksa as our leader, but we failed to get that proposal approved."
Rajapaksa himself had hoped that he could be the UPFA prime ministerial candidate and had even asked close friends to arrange yesterday’s rally at his village of Medamulana to make an announcement of his parliamentary bid.
However, with President Sirisena on the previous night saying that he will not nominate Rajapaksa as the leader of the UPFA parliamentary campaign scuttled his bid.
Rajapaksa kept the door open for negotiations with Sirisena by saying he would lead a group at the next elections while being careful not to say that he himself will enter the fray.
Despite his delicate balancing act, President Sirisena, who is also under pressure from former president Chandreika Kumaratunga to make sure that the Rajapaksa family has no role in a future government, has shut the door on his face.
Political sources said Rajapaksa would not seek the possibility of leading a handful of small parties that will include former parliamentarians such as Wimal Weerawansa and Dinesh Gunawardena.
Neither Weerawansa nor Gunawardena are expected to win a seat if they contested from their own parties, but they need Rajapaksa more than the other way around.
A suggestion by former minister Sarath Amunugama to have Chamal Rajapaksa as the UPFA prime ministerial candidate was also shot down, political sources said.
Chamal was seen as more amenable to a bigger section of the SLFP, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the main constituent of the UPFA. However, if Mahinda Rajapaksa enters the fray from any other coalition, that means Chamal will not be able to challenge his younger brother.