The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) on Friday agreed to grant nomination to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the upcoming General Election. Issuing a press release, UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha confirmed that President Maithripala Sirisena had agreed to grant nomination to Rajapaksa from the UPFA.

Speaking at a media briefing held at Abayaramaya in Narahenpita, Colombo Friday evening, several party leaders of the UPFA proclaimed victory in their lengthy struggle to grant nomination to the former President.

Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, addressing the media briefing, read Susil Premajayantha’s letter proclaiming that the President had agreed to give Mahinda Rajapaksa nominations to contest from the UPFA. He invited all to join hands with them to defeat the United National Party (UNP) at the General Election.

National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader Wimal Weerawansa told journalists that it was imperative that the minority government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe be defeated. He stressed that no one could stop the UPFA’s march to victory now. President Maithirpala Sirisena had listened to the voice of the public and had allowed Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest.

The conflicts between President  Maithripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa were ‘personal’ ones and both had agreed to put these behind them for the sake of the party. The country can only benefit from a Maithri-Mahinda combination and not a Maithri-Ranil combination. “We will form a Maithri-Mahinda government after August 17,” Weerawansa proclaimed.

He also said that the next rally they would hold on July 9 in Anuradhapura would be held with the participation of the former President.

Parliamentarian Prof. G.L. Peiris said the UPFA would be propelled to victory by Mahinda Rajapaksa at the General Election. Describing the former president as a man with ‘rare skills,’ Prof. Peiris said Rajapaksa was capable of defeating the revival of the LTTE.

MP Vasudewa Nanayakkara said over 100 MPs were with them and thanked the people who supported and pushed for the return of Rajapaksa back to politics. He proclaimed victory for the revolution that began at the rally in Nugegoda.

MP Dullas Alahapperuma meanwhile, reiterated that no prime ministerial candidate has been named by the UPFA and that the party’s parliamentary group would decide on the prime minister after the election.

However, those present did not directly give an answer when questioned if Maithirpala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa would both be at the Anuradhapura rally.

President Sirisena’s agreement to allow Mahinda Rajapaksa nominations to contest the General Election from the UPFA came at the end of a week where there was feverish speculation on Rajapaksa’s future. Addressing a large crowd of supporters at his home in Medamulana on July 1, Rajapaksa formally announced that he would contest the upcoming General Election, though at the time, he made no specific mention on which party or alliance he would contest from.

However, the decision to allow Rajapaksa to contest, though meant to prevent a major split in the UPFA and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), may still not prevent such a split. Even at the time this edition went to press, reports started to emerge that a section of the SLFP was in the act of forming a coalition to contest the General Election against Rajapaksa and the UPFA.

UPFA leaders backing Mahinda Rajapaksa proclaimed victory on Friday. | (Pic by Sassanda  Liyanarachchi)
UPFA leaders backing Mahinda Rajapaksa proclaimed victory on Friday. | (Pic by Sassanda Liyanarachchi)