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Be less generous to SLMC atPC polls says UNP Muslims

The SLMC and an influential Muslim group in the UNP are at logger heads over nominations for forthcoming elections to Wayamba and Central Provincial Councils.

Well informed political sources said that they had clashed over the number of Muslim candidates each party should field in the two Provinces. The SLMC has insisted that its decision to contest the polls on the UNP ticket would be entirely depend on the number of slots it received.

The sources said that the UNP group had fiercely resisted the SLMC move with some members accusing SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem of exploiting his close relationship with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

A case in point was the SLMC proposal to field two of its candidates for Kurunegala district whereas the UNP would field one, the sources said. The SLMC has also suggested that it should be given the opportunity to field a Muslim candidate for Matale district at the expense of a Muslim representing the UNP.

They also said that the SLMC had asked for three slots in the Kandy district list.

UNP sources said that former UNP Chairman N. G. P. Panditharatne in a confidential report to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe pointed out the absurdity in their pre-parliamentary poll (April 2004) agreements with both SLMC and CWC which contributed to the downfall of the party.

The agreement with the SLMC prevented the UNP from fielding Muslim UNP candidates in several districts.

They expressed confidence that they could resolve the dispute amicably and prepare to face the government challenge.

The UNP is yet to decide on a chief ministerial candidate for Wayamba PC against the backdrop of several MPs including Sajith Premadasa, MP, declining to quit parliament and lead the campaign as chief minister-designate.

Political sources said that had he accepted the challenging task, the UNP would have had S. B. Dissanayake and Premadasa, two contenders for the post of the Deputy Leader running as chief ministerial candidates in the two provinces.

Had they failed to take the two provinces, particularly the Central Province where Dissanayake was leading the campaign, their bid at party reforms, too, would have suffered a setback.

The government, too, is having problems with the SLFP deciding to ditch Athula Wijesinghe, former Chief Minister of the Wayamba PC following severe criticism of his conduct by the ruling coalition.

Although Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa Friday (26) denied The Island front-page report on the likelihood of he contesting Wayamba PC as the UPFA’s chief ministerial candidate, the minister privately admitted that he would contest.

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva addressing a public rally at Hettipola on Friday confirmed Yapa’s move. Turning towards Yapa seated on the front row of the invitees, the Leader of the House said that methumath chande illanawa (he, too, would contest the polls).

De Silva said that they were campaigning to ensure the victory for the betel leaf and not for any individual candidate. Among the politicians present on this occasion were Berty Premalal Dissanayake and S. B. Navinna.

The sources speculated that the party was determined to prevent any crisis due to its decision not to re-name Wijesinghe as the chief ministerial candidate. Wijesinghe hadn’t been present at any of the meetings held at Paduwasnuwara, Polgahawela, Dambadeniya, Bingiriya electorates.

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