Political parties and independent groups are busy finalizing their candidates lists for the upcoming elections ahead of next week’s nominations.
Talks on alliances, interviews to select candidates and the appearance of posters of prospective candidates on city and town walls indicate that the campaign has already begun, albeit unofficially.
The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) held interviews at the Mahaweli Centre in Colombo to select candidates while the main opposition United National Party (UNP) is holding its interviews at party headquarters, Sirikotha.
|A street sweeper’s cart is seen near a private wall dirtied by posters that remind passers by that the campaign has begun, albeit unofficially. Pic by Sanka Vidanagama
UPFA Administrative Secretary L. Ariyasena told the Sunday Times his party, in interviews that lasted more than a week, had selected candidates, who included lawyers, doctors, artistes, accountants and other professionals.
The Sunday Times learns that a tentative list has been sent to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is the party leader. The final list will be announced after the President gives his approval.
At least three separate interview panels, each consisting of at least six cabinet ministers, conducted the interviews, but the speed with which the interviews were concluded led to speculation that the whole process was a mere formality and the names had already been finalized.
Meanwhile political parties allied to the UPFA also have submitted separate lists to be considered for nominations.
The National Freedom Front (NFF), the Sunday Times learns, has decided to contest in 19 districts on the UPFA ticket and staked a claim for three national list positions.
NFF members Achala Jagoda and M. Muzzamil, who were MPs in the last parliament, have decided not to contest and they are expected to be entertained on the national list.
The JHU, another UPFA ally, said it would be fielding five of its former MPs, including Ven Athureliya Rathana Thera and Environmental Minister Champika Ranawaka. It was expected that Udaya Gammanpila, who is the Western Province Environmental Minister, would also contest the upcoming polls, but he has decided not to, the Sunday Times learns.
|Filmstar Geetha Kumarasinghe getting UPFA ticket
Among other prominent people who are tipped to get UPFA nomination are popular filmstar Geetha Kumarasinghe, who is likely to contest from the Galle district and TV and radio presenter Buddhadasa Vithanachchi from the Kegalle district.
Former Deputy Inspector General Sirisena Herath and former Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Ranjith Gunasekara are also likely to contest the general elections on the UPFA ticket.
The UNP on Thursday decided to contest the elections under the elephant symbol. But party sources said that in view of the political situation that arose following the arrest of the opposition’s common presidential candidate, Gen. (retd.) Sarath Fonseka, the Working Committee had empowered leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to decide whether the party should contest on its own or in alliance with other opposition parties.
Meanwhile Political parties in the north and east also are finalizing their nomination lists.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentary group leader R. Sampanthan said the party would contest all the districts in the north and east. “Our endeavour is to select some candidates who have administrative skills,” he said.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem said his party would contest in some 10 districts, but a final decision would depend on the outcome of talks being conducted with other opposition parties.
Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganeshan, another UNF constituent party which backed the candidacy of Gen. Fonseka at the January 26 presidential election, said his party would field candidates in the Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Batticaloa and Wanni Districts.
People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) leader D. Siddharthan said his party was holding talks with other Tamil parties to come forward as an alliance.
Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF- Pathmanabha wing) General Secretary T. Sritharan said his party was also planning to join an alliance of democratic forces.
He said that even though the party had collaborated with the PLOTE, no finality had been reached on the nomination or the districts.
Another party which has decided to contest the elections is the Untied Sociality Party (USP). Its leader Siritunga Jayasuriya said his party would not join any alliance and would contest in the Colombo, Ratnapura, Nuwara Eliya, Jaffna, Galle and Kalutara districts.
Former Up-Country People’s Front (UPF) MP P. Radhakrishnan said his party’s nominations list would be decided in consultation with the party’s new leader Shanthi Chandrasekaran, widow of former UPF leader and Minister P. Chandrasekaran.
The main plantation party, the Ceylon Workers’ Congress said it would field its candidates on the UPFA ticket in the Colombo, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Badulla, Matale and Ratnapura districts.
Meanwhile presidential advisor and veteran left leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara said he would contest in the Ratnapura district on the UPFA ticket.