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Cooray's 'spectacle' drama...

Both the UPFA and the UNP are fully geared for the "Big Battle" in Colombo next week. With just one week left for the 'big game', Mayoral candidates, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Sirisena Cooray are having sleepless nights to make their dreams a reality. United Socialist Alliance(USA) candidate, Dr. Wickremabahu Karunaratne too is prepared to offer stiff resistance to the two leading candidates campaigning vigorously in the slum and shanty areas of Colombo.

The battle in Colombo looks stiff. But, UPFA candidate,Vasudeva seems to have the edge over his rival, Sirisena Cooray as the latter depends on an independent list where his name does not appear.

Cooray faces resistance not only from outside but also within the fold of his party. This time 'wearing' a pair of 'spectacles', Sirisena Cooray is on a journey only backed by his confidantes, Milinda Moragoda and Mohamed Maharoof. Cooray lost the party symbol because of the negligence of Maharoof.

It was the Moragoda-Maharoof combine that introduced Cooray as the Mayoral candidate having invited him to come down from Australia. Maharoof who had a running battle with former Councillor, T. M. Sanghadasa was reported to have 'tipexxed' the latter's name from the list using his aides. The worst offence was when Maharoof included an underaged youth into the list that resulted in the list being rejected by the election authorities.

Be that as it may, the issue yet continues as factions opposed Maharoof and Moragoda have now decided to take on Cooray. Early this week, UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe now in the United States on a month-long visit telephoned his deputy, Karu Jayasuriya to brief him on the plans to face the CMC elections. Accordingly, Jayasuriya summoned the seniors to discuss the strategy.

Here it was decided to campaign house to house to educate the UNP voters on how to cast their vote for the new symbol-Spectacle. Cooray said it was an easy exercise and he was in the process of campaigning in that manner.

An annoyed Ravi Karunanayake shot back to say that all such problems were caused because of Moragoda, Maharoof and Cooray. "You should have examined the list carefully", Karunanayake hit back. "I am not the man in charge and the party General Secretary had authorised it", Cooray retorted.

The argument between Cooray and Karunanayake reached the hot level as each other addressed themselves 'Aisay'. Before Jayasuriya intervened to calm the situation, Dr.Rajitha Senaratne stepped into defend Karunanayake.

It made matters worse and Jayasuriya called the meeting to order. "I summoned this meeting not to fight but to unite and find ways of winning the election", he asserted. But the developments forced an abrupt end to the meeting with Jayasuriya again stressing the need to campaign house to house.

The same evening, Wickremesinghe telephoned Jayasuriya and told the latter that he was aware of what happened at the meeting. He told Jayasuriya to inform all members that a house to house campaign was necessary and to follow his instructions. At this point Jayasuriya said he would ensure that the leader's plan was carried out. He later spoke to party seniors individually.

The campaign for Cooray in Colombo from the UNP looks fragmented rather than united. Ravi Karunanayake has put forward his Colombo candidates and the Ravi-Rajitha Group campaigns for them. Party seniors like M. H. Mohamed are campaigning for former Deputy Mayor Azath Sally in Colombo Central and Borella, which is an integral part of Colombo East, represented by Moragoda.

Karunanayake also campaigns for his candidates in Colombo West, another stronghold of Moragoda. In Colombo Central, the support for Maharoof has reduced as he stands accused of messing up the UNP list for the CMC elections.

It is reported that several of his organisers have joined Colombo North organiser, Lilantha Cooray to support Azath Sally. Party insiders say that Maharoof's Grandpass political office once the busiest place during all elections looks deserted since the rejection of the nomination list.

Moragoda joined Maharoof a few years ago to depend on the latter's support based on the huge Colombo Central vote bank. But, sources close to Moragoda say that Moragoda has now realised his mistake as his popularity reduced drastically in the city of Colombo as a whole after the ugly episode of the nomination list.

Maharoof's popularity in the Colombo Central stronghold of the UNP declined over the past six years. He first entered parliament as the fourth on the preferential list. At the last parliamentary election, he slipped to the eighth place. His predecessors, R. Premadasa and Sirisena Cooray had always been in the lead at past elections. Even, the incumbent leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe has yet come first in the list though his vote bank reduced at the last general election.

While the UNP infighting continues turning a blind eye to the serious challenge posed by the UPFA, former LSSP firebrand Vasudeva Nanayakkara is gathering momentum day by day. He has already put out an action plan for the city. Cooray came out with his plan only on Friday. For this, he had a ceremony at Viharamahadevi Park attended by deputy leader Jayasuriya.

Several party seniors boycotted this ceremony as Cooray is backed by Moragoda and Maharoof. It was attended by a poor crowd when one analysed the huge vote bank of the UNP in the city of Colombo. With just a week to go for polls, the scenario depicts that Cooray's chances of being the Mayor, a second time hangs in the balance.



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