Vote out the corrupt says NFF leader
Weerawansa’s tactic faulted by running mates

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa has earned the wrath of the majority of UPFA candidates for calling on the electorate to reject corrupt politicians at the forthcoming parliamentary polls.

The former JVP heavyweight, who is eyeing the top slot in Colombo preference vote tally, last week urged voters to keep politicians accused of waste, corruption and irregularities out of Parliament.

He went to the extent of saying that political compulsions wouldn’t allow major political parties to deny nominations to the corrupt, though the voters could defeat them. Weerawansa made this statement last Tuesday (Feb 23), a day before he launched ‘Kathanayakathumeni’, a collection of his speeches in Parliament at Temple Trees under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The President in his address paid a glowing tribute to Weerawansa for being a great strength during Sri Lanka’s battle against terrorism.

Political sources said that a section of the UPFA had been upset over Weerawansa’s strategy. Accusing the NFF of making a clear attempt to woo voters on the basis of it being the principled political party within the SLFP-led coalition, they said that Weerawansa shouldn’t be allowed to campaign like that at the expense of his colleagues.

Seventeen NFF candidates are contesting from 16 electoral districts, with Gampaha being the only district fielding two NFF runners. The President has promised two National List slots to the party with Weerawansa naming former National List MP Mohamed Musammil and Tourism Minister Achala Jagodage as his nominees.

Political sources said that UPFA heavyweights would fiercely fight for preferences in the Colombo district with Weerawansa going all out to achieve his target, though UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is widely expected to top the list in Colombo. General (Retd.) Sarath Fonseka, leading the National Democratic Alliance (DNA), is likely to finish a distant third.

The Parliamentary Elections Act permits a maximum of three candidates more than the available number of seats in a district to be fielded by a party or independent group. Colombo has 19 seats, one less than the previous election due to a drop in the number of voters. Anuradhapura, on the other hand, will have nine MPs, up by one due to an increase in the number of voters.

The UPFA’s Colombo team led by Susil Premjayanth comprises A. H. M. Fowzie, Jeevan Kumaratunga, Gamini Lokuge, Bandula Gunawardena, Rohitha Bogollagama, Thilanga Sumathipala, R. Duminda Silva, Sumith Vijithamuni Soysa, Gamini Tilakasiri, Dhanasiri Amaratunga, Azath Sally, Dinesh Gunawardena, Wimal Weerawansa, Milinda Moragoda, Patali Champika Ranawaka, P.Radhakrishnan, Hariguptha Rohanadeera, Chandana Kattriarachchi, M. Ravindran and Sudarman Radhaliyagoda.

Three MPs elected from Colombo on the UPFA list at the last election are contesting on the DNA ticket under Fonseka. They are Sunil Handunetti and Lakshman Nipunaarachchi (both JVP) and Arjuna Ranatunga leading the JVP-led DNA in the Kalutara district. Messrs. Handunetti and Nipunaarachchi are unlikely to return to Parliament, analysts believe.

The JHU, which had three elected representatives at the last Parliament (Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka thera, Ven. Kotapola Amarakeerthi thera and Ven. Akmeemana Dayaratne thera) is fielding one candidate (Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka) in Colombo.

Ministers Milinda Moragoda, Bandula Gunawardena and Gamini Lokuge, who had been elected to last Parliament on the UNP ticket but subsequently switched to President Rajapaksa, are in the fray in Colombo. Another UNP rebel, M. H. Mohammed, who had entered parliament on the UNP ticket has been accommodated on the UPFA National List.

Ironically only four UPFA members (Susil Premjayanth, Dinesh Gunawardene, A.H.M. Fowzie and Jeevan Kumaratunga) who contested the last election on the government party ticket remain in this year’s list which is dominated by ex-UNPers, including two influential Western Provincial Councillors, Thilanga Sumathipala and R. Duminda Silva.

UPFA sources acknowledged that their entry into the fray had brought ministers under heavy pressure. Both high profile newcomers are expected to make it to the seventh Parliament at the expense of two sitting members.

In the wake of Weerawansa making a strong bid in Colombo, another minister would lose his place, sources predicted.

Western People’s Front leader Mano Ganeshan, who had entered parliament at the last election also on the UNP ticket, shifted to Kandy, though being invited by the UNP to contest from Colombo. Sources said that Ganeshan had initially requested three slots in Colombo, though he finally agreed for two.

"Naturally we though he will be one of the two," well informed sources said. But once agreement was reached on this, Ganeshan wanted to contest from Kandy thereby giving an opportunity to his brother Vishva Prabha Ganeshan to join the fray along with Nallaiah Kumaran Gurubaran, General Secretary of his party.

Sources said that if Ganeshan failed in Kandy, he would return to Parliament on the UNF National List. Sources said that the UNP had to shift party General Secretary Tissa Attanayake to the National List from Kandy due to SLMC lead Rauf Hakeem obtaining nominations to contest Kandy.

Interestingly, Weerawansa too, has fielded his brother from the Matara district, though he badly failed at the last PC polls.

The UNP Colombo list led by Ravi Karunanayake comprises Ranil Wickremesinghe, A.J.M.Muzzammil, Mohammed Maharoof, Mohan Lal Grero, Wijayadasa Rajapakshe, Srilal Lakthilake, Rosy Senanayake, L. S. Manjusri Arangala, Srinath Perera, Aruna Sujeewa Senasinghe, Sunethra Ranasinghe, Jayantha de Silva, Karunasena Kodituwakku, Mohammed Shafeek Rajabdeen, Senaka Damayantha de Silva, Upulsiri Weerasinghe, Ajantha Niroshan Padukka, Susil Kumara Kidelpitiya, Vishva Prabha Ganeshan, Nalliah Kumaran Gurubaran and Methsiri Paranavithana

Sources said that the party had deprived Ram, who had polled nearly 30,000 preferential votes at the last election to the Western Provincial Council an opportunity to contest from Colombo due to opposition from a UNP frontliner on the Colombo list.

Sources said that this unfortunate situation could have been avoided had Mano Ganeshan requested only one slot in Colombo. The frontliner had asserted that inclusion of another Tamil candidate (a UNP nominee) would be at his expense as two of Mano Ganeshan’s nominees were on their list.

Sources said that the situation caused by some UNF bigwigs would be to the advantage of WPC member Muzzamil, who was now likely to poll the lion’s share of UNP Muslim preferences in the Colombo district. He is widely believed to be one of the persons, who supported the move to contest the April 8 poll under ‘elephant’ symbol.

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