Ten of 12 PA dissidents on UNP list

By Shamindra Ferdinando
The UNP has accommodated ten of the 12 PA dissidents on its nomination and national lists.

The dissident group styled as the Sri Lanka Nidahas Deshapremi Peramuna that played a key role in forcing President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government to go for a snap parliamentary election has been allocated two national list places - one for Peramuna chairman G. L. Peiris and the other for its secretary S. B. Dissanayake.

Peramuna National Organiser Mahinda Wijesekara will contest the Matara district. Wijesekara leads the UNP Matara district list while minister Mangala Samaraweera heads the PA list. Peramuna Treasurer Bandula Gunawardena will contest the Colombo district.

Ediriweera Premaratne and Bandula Parakkrama Gunawardena will contest the Kalutara district while Nandimitra Ekanayake will contest the Matale district.

The remaining dissidents, the ex-Gampaha district MP Ananda Munasinghe and the ex-Moneragala district MP Jayasundera Wijekoon have been excluded from the respective nomination lists.

Munasinghe yesterday said that "he may come on the national list." He did not rule out the possibility of being left out of the national list but stressed that "he would campaign vigorously for the United National Front."

Nandimitra Ekanayake yesterday said that they could easily win four of the five electorates in the Matale district. He expressed confidence that under the leadership of one-time political opponent Alick Aluvihare, the main opposition could capture power in the district. Alick Aluvihare’s son, Ranjith too has been included in the Matale district list.

Wijeyapala Mendis, Lakshman Kiriella and Sarath Munasinghe who deserted the PA but opted to join the UNP will contest Gampaha, Kandy and Kurunegala districts respectively.

A senior UNP MP contesting the Colombo district said that the "dissidents have to be accommodated. Their role in clipping President Kumaratunga’s wings has to be recognised," he said pointing out that that nominees of other parties too were accommodated on UNP nomination and national lists.

Dayasiri Jayasekara, one-time aide to Professor Peiris when he was minister of Justice, Constitutional Affairs, Ethnic Affairs and National Integration will contest the Kurunegala district. Interestingly, Jayasekara and Akila Viraj Kariyawasam - ex-leaders of youth fronts of the SLFP and the UNP will contest the same district.

Political sources said that inclusion of Sarath Munasinghe, Dayasiri Jayasekara and Akila Viraj Kariyawasam on the UNP Kurunegala district nomination list angered many long standing partymen.

"Several lost their bids to enter the list," a party source said adding that ex-MP A. H. M. Alavi organised a demonstration opposite Sirikotha last week against new newcomers to the district. Alavi was not included in the nomination list.

Ex-Nuwara Eliya district MP Rohan Abeygunasekere too was not included in the district list. "He is disappointed," a close relative said expressing anger and disbelief that Abeygunasekere was dropped. Responding to questions, the source said that there is no truth whatsoever in claims the ex-MP was not given nominations because he was planning to migrate to a foreign country. There is no truth in speculation that his wife has gone abroad and Rohan is to join her, the source said adding that Mrs. Abeygunasekere is an executive at the National Development Bank. "She is here."

Rohan Abeygunasekere was asked to meet the top leadership at Sirikotha last week. He had to wait several hours but "there was only bad news." Some party supporters protested but nothing happened.

Son of late George Abeygunasekere, Rohan is one of the much loved and respected politician, never been accused of election malpractice, the source said.

The source identified politicians responsible for keeping Rohan out. "The leader should not have allowed this," the source said whatever happens "they would remain with the party."

Abeygunasekere was replaced by B. R. Balasuriya, the source claimed.

In the neighbouring Kandy district, Kishan Karunaratne, a son of ex-UNP MP Chandra Karunaratne failed in his bid to win nominations to contest the Kandy district. About 300 supporters protested outside the party office at Kandy last week but the leadership declined to change its decision to nominate Basil Wilson Harley as the Nawalapitiya organiser and a Kandy district candidate.

The SLFP organiser for Kamburupitiya Dallas Allahapperuma undoubtedly one of the good PA politicians will not contest the election this time. He resigned last week. Allahapperuma said that he decided to leave "PA politics" as there is no point in continuing. "That does not mean I am out of politics," he said adding that he quit government ranks because he could not tolerate what was happening. However, he ruled out the possibility of joining the dissidents.

Former minister P. B. G. Kalugalle’s daughters, Indira and Mala who contested the Kegalle district election at the last parliamentary election had not entered the fray this time. Interestingly, Indira represented the PA. Mala was on the UNP ticket. Both lost.

It was not clear whether Mala was denied nominations by the UNP. She was not available for comment.

However, Indira said that the "PA badly let her down." She blasted some PA higher ups for ignoring her and including a person who polled just 7000 preference votes in the entire Kegalle district last time in the district.

She accused a PA politician of keeping her out of the campaign this time. "I polled over 22,000 preference votes," she said recalling that she obtained the highest number of preference votes in the Mawanella electorate. But what’s the use", she lamented.

Asked whether she intends to support the UNP this time, she said "I am not used to changing political parties like some others do." She implied that the UNP sought to get into their campaign.

Although some have failed to secure nominations, in some cases two people from the same family have been lucky. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake’s son, Vidura, will contest the Kalutara district. His father leads the district list. "They will campaign together," one source said implying that they expect to top the preference vote list.

Deputy Minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi and her father Dharmadasa Wanniarachchi, a minister in the 1970-1977 Samagi Peramuna government will contest the Ratnapura district. The district list is led by Deputy Minister John Seneviratne.

Deputy Minister Reggie Ranatunga and his second son Arjuna will contest Gampaha and Colombo districts respectively.

Two veteran UNP politicians Festus Perera and Harold Herath who represented the Puttalam district for many years will not contest this time. However, Perera’s wife, Mary Larynne will contest the district.

Ronnie de Mel has opted to come on the national list. His wife Mallika de Mel will contest the Matara district.

The PA General Secretary D. M. Jayaratne who lost a highly publicised "preference vote battle" with Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte in the Kandy district too has decided to come on the national list. Ratwatte will lead the Kandy district team. Contrary to speculation, the minister’s son, Lohan will not contest the election but would campaign for his father.

S. B. Dissanayake’s brother, Saliya will campaign for the opposition, political sources said. That will generate a lot hostility, one source said claiming that "Kandy is the place to watch this time too." Saliya who was the minister of Transport, Highways and Women Affairs of the Central Provincial Council was demoted a few weeks ago. The battle between Ratwatte and Dissanayake intensified last year when two persons described as bodyguards of Saliya Dissanayake were detained by Minister Ratwatte’s security personnel in Kandy.

Although, the PA has demoted Saliya for being S.B.’s brother, Nandimitra Ekanayake’s brother, Sarath, chief minister of the Central Provincial Council is likely to be kept. "The chief minister would not leave. There is no need to do so," an aide said. Sarath Ekanayake was not available yesterday afternoon as he was attending a government function in Colombo.

Former first lady Hema Premadasa yesterday said that she would campaign in Hambantota for her son, Sajith.

Speaking to The Sunday Island from Tangalle, Sajith said that "Minister Rajapakse’s people have unleashed a wave of attacks on his supporters. A spokesperson for the minister denied the allegation.

Premadasa said that his supporters were fired at several places including Beliatta, Sooriyawewa and Pallemalala. A vehicle was damaged at Galpottayaya. He expressed confidence that whatever happens he would come on the top in the district. The young Premadasa last time obtained the best result from both sides.

Meanwhile, inclusion of Srima Shanthini Kongahage in the UNP Gampaha district list has surprised many. She contested the Kandy district on Sirisena’s Cooray’s Puravesi Peramuna at the last parliamentary election while her husband, Sarath Kongahage, a UNP national list MP who crossed over to the PA at the fag - end of the last parliament, attacked the UNP leadership particularly Ranil Wickremesinghe. "We were not surprised," one source said pointing out that "these things do happen."