General Election 2010 Gampaha District
UFPA set for landslide under Basil’s leadership,
Jeyaraj’s wife to the fore
JVP-led DNA, UNP unlikely to impress

The UPFA under Basil Rajapaksa’s able leadership is set to win the Gampaha electorate at the forthcoming parliamentary election with a comfortable majority. A divided Opposition is likely to suffer a heavy defeat, with the JVP-led Democratic National Alliance (DNA), being pushed into a distant third position.

At the recently concluded presidential polls, President Mahinda Rajapaksa polled a staggering 718,716 (61.66 %) against Opposition presidential candidate, Gen. (retd) Sarath Fonseka’s 434,506 (37.28%). The UPFA will further benefit at the parliamentary election, due to the split in the Opposition vote, and indications are that the party will increase its final tally in Gampaha.

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. Gampaha has 18 seats at the forthcoming poll, though there were only 17 at the previous election.

After handing over nominations last Monday (Feb 22), Rajapaksa has vowed to take the district with a big margin, though he may not poll a high percentage of preferential votes. His leading role in rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war devastated areas in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is unlikely to help his propaganda campaign in Gampaha, though his aides believed it could make a significant difference. Basil, who had entered parliament through the National List, following the death of UPFA National List MP, Mohamed Anwar Ismail, over two years ago, had stepped in after the assassination of Fernandopulle.

The UPFA’s Gampaha list comprises Felix Perera, Pandu Bandaranaike, Lasantha Alagiyawanne, Sarath Kumara Gunaratne, Neil Rupasinghe, Sarana Gunawardena, Mervyn Silva, Duleep Wijesekera, Anjan Umma, Piyasiri Wijenayake, Ven. Atureliya Ratana thera, Ruwan Ranatunga, Chandana Jayakody, Surdarshini Fernandopulle, Upali Gunaratne, Kokila Harshini Gunawardene, Wasantha Senanayake, Gamini Wijesinghe, Sisira Jayakody and D. V. Mudhalige.

At the last parliamentary polls, the UPFA secured nine slots, the UNP six and JHU 2 in Gampaha. Among the 9 UPFA members, were three JVPers (Vijitha Herath, Anjan Umma and Siripala Amarasinghe). Vijitha Herath leads the JVP-led DNA in Gampaha while Umma contests on the UPFA ticket as one of the two nominees of the National Freedom Front. Piyasiri Wijenayake, who entered the last Parliament from the Kalutara district, is the other NFF nominee. Siripala Amarasinghe, who quit Parliament on perceived medical grounds, received a cushy government appointment, while Sarath Kumara Gunaratne filled his vacancy in the last Parliament.

Other elected UPFA members were Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Anura Bandaranaike, Sripathy Sooriyaarachchi, Lasantha Alagiyawanna and Pandu Bandaranaike. The vacancies created by the assassination of Fernandopulle, and deaths of Bandaranaike and Sooriyaarachchi, were filled by Dulip Wijesekera, Neil Rupasinghe and Reggie Ranatunga, respectively. Sarana Gunawardena filled the vacancy created by the death of Reggie Ranatunga.

Ven. Aparekke Pungnananda thera and Ven. Alawwe Nandhaloka thera were elected to parliament on the JHU ticket. But at the forthcoming election, former JHU parliamentary group leader, Ven. Atureliye Rathana thera, will contest from Gampaha on the UPFA ticket.

The UNP could be proud of its members elected from Gampaha as none of them switched their allegiance to President Rajapaksa for personal benefit. Although Karu Jayasuriya and Edward Gunasekera had joined the President’s team in January 2006, they subsequently returned to the UNP fold. Except former Speaker, Joseph Michael Perera, all other former MPs who represented Gampaha in last parliament, namely Karu Jayasuriya, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena, John Amaratunga, Sarathchandra Rajakaruna and Edward Gunasekera, are on the UNP list. Joseph Michael has opted to return from the UNP National List while fielding his son, Shirantha on the Gampaha list.

Vijitha Herath, who polled the highest number of preferential votes at the last election, would find it extremely difficult even to enter parliament at the April 8 election. Of the 40 candidates fielded by the JVP on the UPFA ticket, 36 entered parliament while three received appointment through the National List.

Political sources said that the JVP could be wiped out in Gampaha. But if that was to happen, it wouldn’t be an isolated case but the general trend in other electoral districts, too, sources said. The worse case scenario is that Fonseka, contesting from Colombo on the DNA ticket, will lose and have to be given the only National List slot secured by the party. Sources said that the JVP was facing an uncertain future, though it showed a brave face amidst increasing pressure on the political front. The bottom line is that the JVP can be reduced to nothing whereas its offshoot, the National Freedom Front, emerges as a force to be reckoned with at least two of its members receiving important ministries in the next government.

Political analysts said that the UPFA could increase its percentage of votes in Gampaha when compared with the recently concluded presidential polls. Fonseka’s debilitating defeat at the January 26 poll, and the subsequent collapse of the Opposition alliance, would be advantageous to the UPFA, which is likely to increase its say in the Catholic areas. The entry of Dr. (Mrs) Sudarshini Fernandopulle, in place of her assassinated husband, is expected to strengthen the UPFA. She is expected to poll a substantial number of preferential votes and likely to be second only to Rajapaksa, who will benefit by an all round effort on the part of the ruling coalition to boost him.

Former President and SLFP leader Chandrika Kumaratunga’s aversion to the Rajapaksas is unlikely to cause any problems to the UPFA. Although, Kumaratunga had openly campaigned for Fonseka at the recently concluded presidential polls, President Rajapaksa secured the district with a record margin.

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