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Sunday, 19 July 2015

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Extending family dominion

Several key political families have entered the fray to cash in on the prestige of family names :

A parliamentary election offers an opportunity for people to select their national representatives. While it is understood that political acumen, leadership qualities, dedication to serve the people and adherence to party policy should be the criteria for selection, in South Asia, electing members of the same family is part of the political practice.

Nepotism, in reality, is one of the key criterion to receive blessings of party leaders, on the basis that old family loyalties imply immediate trust and even ability.

The two main political parties in Sri Lanka, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) have long since been dabbling in dynastic politics. Some of the best known political families include the Senanayakas, Bandaranaikes and Rajapaksas.

Though there had been internal discussions for long that parties must shun this practice through affirmative policies and practices, in reality, members of famous families clear the first hurdle of obtaining nomination from the parties with relative ease.

The Rajapaksa family has dominated Hambantota politics for long, and for generations.

Nepotistic outreach

This time too, there are four members in the fray and extending their dominion, Mahinda Rajapaksa, will be contesting from the Kurunegala District, leaving home turf for brother Chamal, son Namal and cousin, Nirupama. For Mahinda Rajapaksa, the shift is for political reasons and the Rajapaksas do not have family roots in Kurunegala. However, he seeks to sow his strength in terms of preferential votes in a district that has the third highest voters list in the country.

Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, the eldest son of SLFP stalwart D.A. Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa the elder son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Nirupama Rajapaksa, the daughter of George Rajapaksa, will form a formidable team in Hambantota. Following the footsteps of Rajapaksa family is the Ranatunga family in Gampaha, contesting from the two main political parties, the UNP and the UPFA.

Former MP Ruwan Ranatunga and Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga are slated to contest from the Gampaha District while Minister Arjuna Ranatunga will contest from the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG), under the UNP's elephant symbol.

Another two prominent siblings contesting the election under UPFA banner are former Ministers Dinesh Gunawardena and his younger brother and a former deputy speaker, Geethanjana Gunawardena, sons of Philip Gunawardena. They will enter the fray from the Colombo District.

Navin and Mayantha, the two sons of late Gamini Dissanayake are two prominent brothers contesting the general elections on the UNP ticket.

Navin Dissanayake will contest from the Nuwara Eliya District, his father's former constituency, while Mayantha Dissanayake will enter the fray from the Kandy District. Father-in-law of Navin Dissanayake, Minister Karu Jayasuriya's name has already been included in the UNP's national list.

Likewise, the Aluvihares of Matale are also popular in politics. This time, two brothers, Wasantha Aluvihare and Ranjith Aluvihare will contest on UNP ticket from the same district - Matale.

The entry of Chatura Sandeepa Senaratne, the son of Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne has also created a father and son combine.

The father-son duo will contest from the UNFGG from Kalutara and Gampaha Districts respectively.

The entry of Western Provincial Councillor Malsha Kumaratunga into national politics has created a father-daughter duo. Though it was speculated that Jeewan Kumaratunga will not contest this time, his name has now been included in the UPFA national list.

Leading figures

The husband-wife duo in the fray is UNP's National Organizer, Daya Gamage, and his wife Anoma. But they will not split the preferences as Daya Gamage will contest while his wife, Dr. Anoma Gamage will be accommodated on the national list.

The other prominent family in the running is the Fonseka family of the Democratic Party. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and his wife Anoma Fonseka are creating another husband-wife combine and they will contest from Colombo and Gampaha Districts.

Their former son-in-law, though separated from their family has united with them in politics, to contest the election from the Colombo District.

The Senanayake family is one of the leading families in Sri Lankan politics. Their family name is deeply linked to the formation of the UNP and its evolution. Setting aside some differences in the recent years, Rukman Senanayake, grandson of D.S. Senanayake and Wasantha Senanayake, great grandson of D.S. Senanayake, will contest the election from Kegalle and Gampaha Districts.

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