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Sunday, 19 July 2015

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Political parties clean their stables

With the conclusion of handing over nominations for the August 17 Parliamentary Election, several prominent politicians ended up disappointed due to not being accommodated.

Duminda Silva Mervin Silva Sarana Gunawardena Kamala Ranatunga

While it may not be a serious disappointment for those who made their first ever appearance before a party nomination board, it is not so for those who have held portfolios and senior positions in the party.

Several political parties have decided against some big names du e to various reasons and attempt has been made to include young persons and those without a chequered past, at least to an extent.

With the re-entry of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who will contest the election from the Kurunegala District representing the UPFA, his brother, the onetime powerful Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa who nursed Gampaha as his electorate has opted out of the election battle.

Basil opts out

His US citizenship might have been the reason for his desire to not run, as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution does place practical restrictions on dual citizens. He obtained the highest number of preferential votes in 2010 from the Gampaha District. If he chose differently, altogether five members from the Rajapaksa family would have entered the fray.

Two veterans in politics, former Prime Ministers Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and D.M. Jayaratne are on the UPFA national list.

Aged 82, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, twice held the Prime Minister's post, firstly from August 2000 to December 2001 during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's presidency and later, from 2005 to 2010, when Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President. However, his son, former MP Vidura Wickremanayake will contest from the Kalutara District.

Aged 84, D.M. Jayaratne the seniormost member in the SLFP at present, rose to the premiership of the country after starting his politics as a village councillor in the Kandy District. He was appointed Prime Minister in 2010 after Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected the President for his second term and continued as Prime Minister till the dissolution of parliament. He first entered parliament in 1970 contesting the election from the Gampola electorate in the Kandy District. His son, Anuradha Jayaratne, is now in active politics as a Member of the Central Provincial Council and will be contesting from Kandy on the UPFA ticket.

Kamala Ranatunga, a long time supporter of the SLFP and a trade unionist, who made her way to parliament as a nominated member, has been dropped this time. The name of veteran actress Malini Fonseka too is not included. The most controversial names denied nominations from the UPFA this time are former MPs Duminda Silva from the Colombo District, Mervin Silva and Sarana Gunawardena from the Gampaha District and Sajin de Vas Gunawardena from the Galle District. The allegations against them on corruption, drug deals and criminality have rocked local politicis in the recent years with public criticism against them on a permanent increase.

If the exclusions gained the UPFA some respect, the inclusion of Lakshmanthi Gunawardena, the wife of another politician under a cloud, Sarana Gunawardena of Gampaha District has resulted in raised eyebrows.

Mervin Silva entered parliament for the first time in 1994 from the Hambantota District, representing the UNP. He later crossed over to the SLFP to contest the 2004 general election from the Colombo District. Having failed to garner enough preferences, he entered the House after his wife Mary Lucida, who entered the legislature on the national list, resigned within a day, paving the way for him.

In 2010, he contested the election from the Gampaha District as the SLFP organizer for Kelaniya. Though he attempted to align himself with the President Maithripala Sirisena subsequently, he was not welcomed by the alliance which supported President Sirisena at the presidential election.

Sajin de Vass Gunawardena who is now in remand prison over allegations of corruption was denied nomination due to his embarrassing record of corruption and abuse of State resources.

He first entered Parliament in 2010 from Galle on the UPFA ticket and was later appointed as the Supervisory MP for the Foreign Ministry, which made him the de-facto Foreign Minister in the Rajapaksa Government.

Corrupt elements

Duminda Silva was also denied nomination, based on allegations of drug trafficking. His entered politics from the UNP in 2004 when he was elected to the Western Provincial Council. He later aligned with the UPFA and entered parliament in 2010 on the UPFA ticket from Colombo.

His alleged engagement in the murder of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and alleged connection to drug dealers contributed to making his political life unstable.

Former militant Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman too has also been dropped by the UPFA. After giving up arms, he became a national list MP from UPFA in 2008. He led the political party Tamil Makkal Vidutalai Pulikal (TMVP) but later joined the SLFP. He was thereafter appointed a Minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government.

Former Ports and Highways Projects Minister Nirmala Kothalawala has decided not to continue with a political career. After entering politics in the 1990s, he first entered parliament in 2004 contesting under UPFA from the Kalutara District.

A famous person who distanced himself from mainstream politics this time is one time Sri Lankan cricket captain, Sanath Jayasuriya, after a short stint in the House.

 

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