By Shamindra Ferdinando
Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, yesterday, said that the entry of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa into politics was a problem as he hadn’t even been a member at least of a village council.
Rajapaksa has declared his readiness to contest the 2019 presidential election on the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) ticket.
Dr. Senaratne said so after the opening of a newly constructed government building at Palindanuwara.
The Minister was responding to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s accusation earlier in the day that the Sri Lanka Counsel General in Los Anegles had facilitated filing of two civil cases against him in the US recently.
Soon after returning from the US, Rajapaksa told the media at the BIA of the alleged involvement of the Consul General in the operation targeting him.
Senaratne accused Rajapaksa of making childish statements.
Presidential election is expected in Dec-January, 2019.Having declared that Rajapaksa wouldn’t receive any votes from the Northern and Eastern electoral districts, Dr. Senaratne claimed that Rajapaksa would facilitate their victory.
The UNP is yet to name its presidential candidate.
Dr. Senaratne quoted Sri Lanka Consul General in Los Angeles Swarna Pushpa Kanthi Gunaratne as having denied her involvement in the judicial action against Rajapaksa. The Minister identified the non-career diplomat as the sister of slain former PA MP Bharatha Premachandra.
Kanthi Gunaratne received the appointment from the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government during Mangala Samaraweera’s tenure as the Foreign Minister.
On his arrival at the BIA, Rajapaksa declared that all steps required to renounce his US citizenship had been successfully concluded during his stay in the US.
“I was in the US to take necessary steps to get my US citizenship renounced and to meet lawyers in this regard. I concluded all procedures needed for that successfully. However, I will have to get it done from here. Once they inform me, I will submit necessary documents to get it renounced,” Rajapaksa said.
In terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in early 2015, dual citizens cannot contest presidential and parliamentary polls. The 19th Amendment also disqualified former President Mahinda Rajapaksa from contesting on the basis of him being twice President.
Namal Rajapaksa, Dallas Alahapperuma,Bandula Gunawardana, Prasanna Ranatunga, Dilum Amunugama Among Large Number of UPFA Parliamentariams at Katunayake airport to Welcome Presidential Aspirant Gptabaya Rajapaksa
Rajapaksa received a rousing welcome at the BIA on his arrival with many UPFA lawmakers joining cheering crowds.
SLPP and UPFA sources said that former Defence Secretary Gotabaya had the backing of the majority of UPFA lawmakers for his 2019 presidential bid.
Among those who gathered at the Bandaranaike International Airport to welcome him on his return from the US on Thursday morning were Dallas Alahapperuma (Matara), Bandula Gunawardena (Colombo), Dr. Ramesh Pathirana (Galle) , Shehan Semasinghe (Anuradhapura), Ranjith Zoysa (Ratnapura) , Prasanna Ranatunga (Gampaha), Priyankara Jayaratne (Puttalam), Salinda Dissanayake (Puttalam), Gamini Lokuge (Colombo), C.B. Ratnayake ( Nuwara-Eliya), S.M. Chandrasena (Anuradhapura), Dilum Amunugama (Kandy), Indika Anuruddha (Gampaha), Namal Rajapaksa (Hambantota), Sanath Nishantha Perera (Puttalam) and Janaka Wakkumbura (Ratnapura) and Arundika Fernando (Puttalam). Former MP Sarath Kumara Gunaratne (Gampaha) was also present.
The UPFA won 95 seats at the last parliamentary poll.