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General Election 2010 Southern Province
A battle between SLFP and UNP candidates

* JVP and NFF unlikely to impress
* CP, LSSP field four contestants, JHU none

In the Southern Province comprising the Galle, Matara and Hambantota electoral districts, there’ll be a three-cornered fight for 25 seats at the April 8 parliamentary election.

Galle, Matara and Hambantota are represented by 10, 8 and 7 members respectively. In line with the Parliamentary Election Act, for each electoral district three candidates more than the actual number of elected is fielded either by recognised political parties or independent groups.

Although a comfortable victory for the SLFP-led ruling coalition is inevitable in the South, the government is likely to go all out to wipe out the JVP in the southern electoral districts, though it’ll not be an easy task.

Unlike in other provinces, none of the seven JVP MPs, Ajith Kumara, Chandrasena Wijesinghe, Thilakarathna Withanachchi (Galle), Jinadasa Kithulegoda, Premasiri Manage (Matara) and Nihal Galappaththi and Vijitha Ranaweera (Hambantota) were elected at the April 2004 parliamentary election.

The JVP is contesting the poll on the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) ticket. Ajith Kumara, who is leading the DNA candidates in the Galle District, told The Island that members elected from the South were proud that none of them deserted the party. "We are confident the Southern electorate will appreciate our commitment to the party," he said. He expressed confidence that they could secure a few seats in the South.

The UPFA secured 16 seats at the April 2004 election. Of them, the JVP, which contested on the UPFA ticket, secured seven while the UNP took the remaining nine seats in the Southern Province.

The breakaway JVP faction, which was subsequently recognised as the National Freedom Front (NFF) is in the fray in Matara and Hambantota electoral districts. NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa’s brother, Sarath and Dharmasena Kodituwakku are contesting from Matara and Hambantota, respectively. They are unlikely to make an impression. The NFF is not even in the fray in Galle, though the UPFA had accommodated 16 NFF candidates in 15 district lists. Mohammed Musammil and Achala Jogoda are the NFF National List nominees. Political sources said NFF candidates wouldn’t stand a chance in the Southern Province.

Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), which is contesting the general election on the UPFA ticket, is not in the fray in the South. JHU spokesman Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe told The Island that JHU candidates were contesting from Colombo, Gampaha, Kurunegala, Mahanuwara and Kalutara districts. He said that they fielded candidates in districts where the JHU had won seats at the last parliamentary election. The JHU contested the April 2004 election on its own.

Shortly after the November 2005 presidential election, almost 20 UNP MPs switched their allegiance to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In Galle, the UNP lost Hemakumara Nanayakkara and Lional Premasiri and in Matara Mahinda Wijesekera and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene leaving only five UNP representatives in the entire Southern Province. Of the UNP dissidents, Hemakumara Nanayakkara and Mahinda Wijesekera are not contesting the April 8 poll. Nanayakkara recently gave up politics due to ill health while Wijesekera is unlikely to resume an active political life due to injuries he received in a terrorist suicide bomb attack in the South.

Mangala Samaraweera, who spearheaded the UPFA campaign in Matara at the last general election, is in the fray on the UNP ticket at the forthcoming election. Although, Samaraweera recently boasted that the Opposition would win the forthcoming poll by at least by one vote, he would face an uphill task in securing a place among elected UNP candidates from Matara.

Veteran politician and Galle District UPFA member, Amarasiri Dodangoda, passed away last May. Chandima Weerakkody, who filled Dodangoda’s vacancy, is in the fray in Galle. Among the UPFA candidates contesting from the Galle district is Sajin Vas Gunawardena, a close confidant of President Rajapaksa. Gunawardena, who had comfortably secured a place in the Southern Provincial Council at the last election to the UPFA-run council, is widely expected to enter parliament at the April 8 poll.

UNP Galle district MP Gayantha Karunathilake told The Island that the UNP could secure six out of 10 seats in the Galle district. He said that the party which won the Galle district always secured six seats and this time it would be their chance to take the district. The UPFA won Galle at the last election.

The Hambantota battle is dominated by Namal Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa as they jostle for a commanding position with President Rajapaksa actively campaigning for his son. Namal is widely expected to receive a high percentage of the UPFA vote in the Rajapaksas’ stronghold.

At the last general election, the UPFA won five out of seven seats in Hambantota, with the SLFP and JVP sharing the UPFA seats. Mahinda Rajapaksa was among the three SLFP MPs elected from Hambantota. Once he quit his seat to contest the presidential election in November 2005, his vacancy was filled by Nirupama Rajapaksa, who is also in the fray at the 2010 parliamentary election.

The Communist Party is also in the fray in the South with three candidates contesting from Galle (A.C.G. Piyasiri), Matara (Chandrasiri Gajadeera) and Hambantota (Vijitha Punchihewa). CP National List Nominee Dew Gunasekera told The Island that the PA had fielded three other candidates in Anuradhapura (Jayalath Bandara Seneviratne, Kandy (Sisira Wickremesinghe) and Mahesh Almeida (Colombo). According to him, the LSSP, too, had fielded five candidates in Galle, Moneragala, Kegalle, Polonnaruwa and Kalutara. Former PA member Ven. Baddegama Samitha thero is the LSSP nominee for Galle. Gunasekara, who is the CP nominee on the UPFA National List said that the left parties were campaigning for Ranjith Navaratne (Mahajana Pakshaya) in Kurunegala and Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Democratic Left Front) in Ratnapura. He expressed confidence that left candidates could play an important role in Parliament. Altogether 13 candidates are contesting from 12 districts. Minister Gunasekera said that the left parties would also support MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena contesting from Colombo.

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