In what appears to be a bold tactical manoeuvre calculated to thwart Ex- President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s hopes of making a successful comeback, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has conveyed a terse message to the Medamulana camp that has transformed the current political climate drastically. The message amounting to a political torpedo now threatens to sink the ambitious ship in which Mahinda and his loyalist coterie of supporters hoped to sail to power smoothly.
It is learnt that President Sirisena who agreed to nomination being given to former President Rajapaksa to contest the forthcoming parliamentary elections as a United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) candidate has now stipulated certain conditions regarding such nomination.
President Sirisena has stated at the outset that Mahinda Rajapaksa would not be appointed as prime minister. Also Mahinda must not contest in any district other than his native Hambantota district. He has also emphasised that the former President would not be permitted to spearhead the election propaganda campaign of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which is the chief constituent of the UPFA. Furthermore he has stressed that Mahinda himself will have to contest only under the betel symbol of UPFA. Emphasising further President Sirisena has said that Mahinda Rajapaksa has got only UPFA nomination and not SLFP nomination.He would not be allowed the hand symbol of the SLFP in case the UPFA and SLFP contest separately if the necessity arises. President Sirisena has indicated that he is contemplating the pulling out of the SLFP from the UPFA and contesting independently if circumstances warrant it.
President Sirisena also conveyed a message to Mahinda Rajapaksa that he expected the former President to “resign”voluntarily after being elected as MP if any domestic or international tribunal indicted him on any potential charges. The Ex – president should resign forthwith and face the charges and clear his name. If and when legally exonerated from such charges , Mahinda Rajapaksa will be restored to appropriate political office available at that juncture.
The coterie of Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists described as the “Abhayaramaya Cabal” received a further shock when President Sirisena indicated that a number of former cabinet ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers and MP’s being probed currently on charges of alleged corruption, bribery,misappropriation and influence peddling will not be given nomination for the polls. Certain MP’s being investigated for alleged involvement in drug dealing will also not be given nomination. Likewise ex –parliamentarians facing criminal charges who are currently in custody or temporarily out on bail will also not be given nomination.
According to informed sources , President Sirisena has also mentioned the names of such persons who are to be denied nomination. It is learnt that 44 such ex – parliamentarians will not be given nomination. These range from Mahinda’s younger brother Basil Rajapaksa to sycophant –thug Mervyn Silva. Apparently most of these persons to be denied nomination are at the forefront of the “Bring Back Mahinda movement”. President Sirisena’s announcement that these elements would not be given nomination if implemented would virtually cripple the Mahinda movement.
Pull out the SLFP from UPFA
President Sirisena has also warned that if directives were not followed by Mahinda Rajapaksa or his supporters then he would pull out the SLFP from the UPFA. The SLFP would face the hustings separately with supportive smaller and minority community parties. The SLFP campaign will be led by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. The SLFP will field a number of young candidates from the ranks of Provincial councils and local authorities. The criteria of selection will be personal stature and popularity , a record of service to the people and absence of corruption blemishes.
It is learnt that the Maithripala Sirisena’s firm message was communicated to the Mahinda camp via Nimal Siripala de Silva, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Susil Premajayantha. Sirisena had also reportedly advised the three senior leaders to decide firmly on which side they were and act accordingly. The trio has been accused of “double dealing”in matters concerning Maithripala and Mahinda.
Consternation in Mahinda Camp
President Sirisena’s political torpedo has caused consternation in the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp it is learnt. In the aftermath of Sirisena’s message the triumphal mood that existed within the Abhayaramaya cabal has rapidly dissipated. The press conference scheduled to be held at the Opposition Leader’s office has been cancelled. The envisaged rally to be held at Anuradhapura on July 9th has been postponed. Plans for filing nomination papers by Mahinda Rajapaksa on July 8th have also been put on hold. An atmosphere of uncertainty prevails as stalwarts of the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp engage in frantic discussions about how to cope with the challenge issued by Maithripala.
Meanwhile President Sirisena who plays political poker keeping his cards close to his chest is faced with a mini crisis due to many of his supporters and loyalists being agitated over his granting nomination to Mahinda Rajapaksa. Maithripala is currently engaged in damage control exercises by appealing to his loyalists to be patient for a few days. He has also “explained”the situation to Chandrika Kumaratunga it is learnt.
It remains to be seen as to how the Mahinda camp will react to the political torpedo fired by Maithripala. Since the political survival of a number of top leaders is at stake it is doubtful whether the Abhayaramaya cabal will meekly surrender to Maithripala’s ultimatum. Against that backdrop the question looming large is whether President Sirisena will have the political temerity and tenacity to resist the Rajapaksa offensive or whether he will capitulate in another political flip – flop!