Tough fight predicted for four in Sri Lanka election

The four candidates in fray for Sri Lankan president are (clockwise from left) Mahesh Senanayake, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sajith Premadasa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake. The vote is set for Nov. 16. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 02 October 2019

Tough fight predicted for four in Sri Lanka election

  • Voters from minorities such as Muslims and Tamils ‘will be the deciding factor’

COLOMBO: As Sri Lanka gears up for its presidential elections on Nov. 16, prospective candidates were preparing to submit their nominations on Oct. 7, officials told Arab News on Tuesday.

The incumbent, President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, hasn’t announced his decision to contest the polls yet.

However, in January 2015, when he took his oath as president, he said that he would not re-contest for the presidency after the completion of his term.

Four candidates have so far announced their intentions to contest the post. The first is the deputy leader of the United National Party (UNP), Sajith Premadasa, son of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa; the second is former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who claims that he was responsible for the victory over Tamil rebels on the island and brought an end to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka; the third is Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who says he is determined to free Sri Lanka of nepotism, corruption and work toward economic development. 

The latest addition to the fray is Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake, who retired recently and believes that the country can move toward prosperity only with proper discipline.

Besides these four candidates, six more have expressed their desire to contest the presidency.

Born in 1967, Sajith Premadasa, cabinet minister for housing, construction and cultural affairs and Member of Parliament for the Hambantota district, is well known for his hard work. 

He developed more than 125 villages in various parts of the country to ameliorate the conditions of the poor.

An acclaimed social worker, he claims to understand the needs of the common man, while reiterating the fact that he was the only person who carried out development programs with the cooperation of commoners.

Major minority parties — such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the Sri Lanka Makkal Congress, headed by Ministers Rauf Hakeem and Rishath Bathiudeen — are backing Premadasa, supported by Tamil leaders such as former Northern Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.

Sri Lanka Pohottuwa Party nominee Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been named in several murder, abduction and anti-Muslim cases, believes he could win the presidency with the votes of the majority Sinhalese, who form 85 percent of the island’s population.

Rajapaksa was instrumental in beautifying Colombo city and improving the road networks in the country and says that the need of the hour is to give adequate security to the people, which he is confident about doing.

A problem looming over his candidacy is that he holds dual citizenship with the US, but he claims to have relinquished the foreign citizenship recently.

Mahesh Senanayake, who is the presidential candidate of the National People’s Movement and People’s Forum Organization, said on Monday that he had come forward as a presidential candidate to safeguard the country which is in turmoil, adding that he intended to develop the country by working with patriots.

JVP leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who will lead the National People’s Power (NPP) movement, says that Sri Lanka will be converted to a proud and unshaken country in the world. 

He invited capable people who love the country to join his effort to lead the country toward this target.

M. Ameen, veteran journalist and Leader of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said that this is going to be a tough election where four candidates will have equal shares of voters. 

He added that the voters from the minority communities such as Muslims and Tamils will be the deciding factor in the election.


Russia reports 16,550 new coronavirus cases in past 24 hours

Updated 27 October 2020

Russia reports 16,550 new coronavirus cases in past 24 hours

  • Authorities said 320 people had died in the last 24 hours

MOSCOW: Russia recorded 16,550 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, including 4,312 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 1,547,774.
Authorities said 320 people had died in the last 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 26,589.