War within UPFA for Wayamba manapes

By Pushpakumara Jayarathne in Kurunegala

As election fever reaches its peak in the Wayamaba (the North Western Province), the tussle for the preference vote or the Manape is also hotting up with the battle being fierce within the UPFA for the chief ministerial post.

The UPFA leadership has indicated that the chief ministerial post will go to the candidate who gets the most number of preferential votes. With less than a week for the elections, UPFA candidates, believing their party is heading for victory, are diverting their energy and resources to the preferential vote battle
Somakumari Tennekoon, chairperson of Laksala, is one candidate who believes she can top the list.

UPFA campaign workers in Nikaweretiya with posters of Somakumari Tennekoon
UNP stalwarts conducting awareness programmes for the party’s candidates in Kurunegala

Ms. Tennekoon, who is also the UPFA’s chief organiser for Nikaweratiya, said the chief minister’s post was in the hands of the voters. “If they want a woman chief minister, then I am that candidate,” she said.
Puttalam district UPFA leader Asoka Wadigamangawa, another contender for the CM post, also said the chief minister’s post would be decided by the voters. He said the voters were politically mature enough to decide on it and he was confident of winning the most number of preferential votes.

Former Chief Minister Athula Wijesinha is another contender for the post. The UPFA campaign is spearheaded by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. Yesterday President Mahinda Rajapaksa was due to address a rally in Chilaw. But he later addressed the meeting via satellite.

Meanwhile, the JVP has adopted a new approach to its campaign in the face of poor turnout at political meetings. Party officials are holding media conferences and arranging village level meetings where people discuss problems with JVP leaders such as Somawansa Amarasinghe, Tilvin Silvin and Vijitha Herath.

JVP’s chief ministerial candidate Nimal Herath said their supporters were coming under attacks and blamed the UPFA for the violence. The JVP is also organizing various public ceremonies to coincide with the campaign. Recently in Kurunegala, it distributed scholarships and uniforms to students and donated Rs. 2,500 to every war hero family. The ceremony was presided over by Ven. Dambara Amila Thera and attended by Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath.

The UNP’s campaign is being spearheaded by the party’s deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya and its Wayamba strongman Gamini Jayawickrema Perera playing a leading role.

UNP officials alleged that the UPFA was violating election laws by misusing state property. They charged public officials, like teachers and principals, had been forced to work for the UPFA.

The UNP’s CM candidate Prasanna Senarath said that despite in-fighting in the UPFA for the CM post, the ruling party was preparing for large-scale vote rigging.

JVP’s CM candidate Nimal Herath said his party had made an official complaint to election officials regarding the misuse of state vehicles and public officials by the UPFA.

Opposition politicians also alleged that ex-chief minister Athula Wijesinghe was using his official vehicle which should have been handed over to the governor of the province when the council was dissolved.

Governor Tissa Balalla said that his instructions calling for the return of all vehicles used by the CM and the ministers were yet to be carried out by the provincial secretary.

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