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
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
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
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.
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
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.