Last-minute changes and party bickering dominated the selection process of candidates for the April 8 Parliamentary elections. At this stage, Parliament veterans and their families appear to have the edge. With five days to go before nominations close, the main parties have more or less finalised their lists. Film stars, sports personalities, journalists, businessmen and professionals are among those vying for seats.
Olympic medallist Susanthika Jayasinghe is to contest from her hometown, in the Kegalle district, while cricket star Sanath Jayasuirya will contest from his hometown, Matara. Actress Geetha Kumarasinghe will contest from the Galle district.
In Colombo, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the United National Front (UNF) are fielding senior Party members.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is contesting under a newly formed alliance, and plans to field General Sarath Fonseka for Colombo district. Former cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga is contesting for the Gampaha district under the same alliance.
Presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa will lead the list for the UPFA in the Gampaha district, while the United National Party’s (UNP) deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya will head his party in the district. Several senior party members on both sides who have been in Parliament will be contesting.
In the Kurunegala district, 12 of the 14 members with seats in Parliament are contesting, the exceptions being UNP MP Amarapiyaseeli Ratnayaka, who is stepping down to make way for his son Manjula Ranaga Bandara. Gamini Jayawickrema Perera is coming in from the National List, and his son is also contesting.
Former Police spokesman SSP Ranjith Gunasekara, who was to contest for the Kurunegala district, was last afternoon awaiting a call from his party to sign his nomination papers.
Former DIG Colombo, Sirisena Herath, will contest from Galenbindunuwewa, in the Anuradhapura district.
In Batticaloa, the UPFA list will include Provincial Council minister A. L. M. A. Hisbullah and former minister Ali Zahir Moulana. The UNF list for Batticaloa district will include Eastern Province member Arasaretnam, Sashitharan and former minister Basheer Cegu Dawood.
Minister Vianayagamoorthy (“Karuna”) Muralitharan, who is not coming on the National List, will contest from Ampara district. Ministers P. Dayaratna, Ferial Ashraff, A. Athaullah and ex-chief of the Civil Defence Force, Sarath Weerasekara, PC Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayaka, PC member Daya Gamage and ex-MP M. Musthapha will also contest.
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attananayaka leads the Kandy district list, which includes former MPs Lakshman Kiriella, Renuka Herath and M. H. A. Haleem. Shanthini Kongahage will contest from the same district, representing the Ududumbara area. Mayantha Dissanayaka, son of the late Gamini Dissanayaka, will also contest from Kandy. The Kandy UPFA list includes Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Keheliya Rambukwella. Minister D. M. Jayaratna may be included in the National List.
In the Nuwara Eliya district, the UNP is led by K. K. Piyadasa, a sitting PC member, while Mayor Chandraal Karunaratna and Palani Digambaram, who recently successfully contested the PC elections, will contest. In the same district, the UPFA list will be led by ex-minister C. B. Ratnayaka, and includes Armugam Thondaman and Naveen Disssanayaka.
In the Puttalam district, the UPFA list includes Minister Milroy Fernando and former ministers Dayasritha Tissera, Neomal Perera, K. A. Baiz and Deputy Speaker Priyankara Jayaratna. Ex-NFF MP Samansiri Herath will also contest. The UNP list will be led by Range Bandara. Other names are yet to be finalised.
In the Trincomalee district, ex-Nation Building minister Susantha Punchinilame will contest alongside M. K. D. S. Gunawardena.
In the Hambantota district, where seven members will be returned to Parliament, the UPFA list includes Chamal Rajapaksa, Nirupama Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa and Mahinda Amaraweera. The UNF will be led by ex-MP Sajith Premadasa.
In the Galle district, the UPFA list includes Dr. Ramesh Pathirana (son of the late Richard Pathirana), Nishantha Muthuhettigama, Ven. Baddegama Samitha, and former ministers Piyasena Gamage, Gunaratna Weerakoon and Lionel Premasiri. Sajin Vass Gunawardena, recently elected as a PC member, and Chandima Weerakkody will also contest.
The UNP’s Galle district list includes former MPs Vajira Abeywardena and Gayantha Karunatillake, PC members Manush Nanayakkara, Ashoka Danawansa and Wijepala Hettiarachchi. Krishantha Pushpakumara, an astrologer, will also contest.
Meanwhile, Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganesan was in discussions with the UNF on Friday, after reaching agreement on contesting on the same ticket in Ratnapura, Kegalle, Gampaha and Kalutara. Discussions are under way regarding Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, the Wanni and Batticaloa.
In Jaffna, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has dropped six of its former MPs. Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) chief Douglas Devananda is contesting on his own. The UNF in Jaffna is led by Saravana Bhawan.
In Moneragala, ex-ministers Vijayamuni Soysa, Jagath Pushpakumara and Minister Sumedha Jayasena will contest for the UPFA. The UNP list will be headed by MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara, and will include PC member Tissa Kuttiarachchi.
Meanwhile, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) has been offered two National List positions and five nominations under the UPFA to contest the upcoming Parliamentary elections.
JHU leader Ven. Ellawala Medhananda and JHU general secretary Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera have been offered National List positions. The others contesting are Ven. Athureliye Rathana- (Gampaha); Champika Ranawaka-(Colombo); Retired Squadron Leader Shantha Jayatillaka (Kalutara); Attorney-at-Law M. C. Jayaratna (Kurunegala) and Thushara Swaranatillaka (Kandy).