Wednesday, 20 June 2018 07:01

Pohottuwa explodes

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All three Rajapaksa siblings vying to contest the presidency:
Mahinda won’t make preference clear:
Basil flexes muscles, lays down the law to SLFP-16:

Cracks have appeared within the political front aligned with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the battle over the faction’s presidential candidate heats up.

Although the pro-Rajapaksa faction looks spoilt for choice with regard to its nominee to contest the 2020 Presidential poll, all three Rajapaksa brothers Basil, Gotabhaya and Chamal who held powerful positions in the former regime are now vying for the slot, creating deep divisions within the group.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is reportedly livid at his youngest brother Basil Rajapaksa, for unofficially calling for a boycott of the vote for deputy speaker in Parliament, in which the SLFP 16/JO candidate was badly defeated. Over a dozen JO MPs absented themselves from the Chamber during the vote, but were seen socializing at the Parliament canteen at the same time. The boycotting JO MPs were reportedly following directives from Basil Rajapaksa, highly placed sources said.

Authoritative sources told Daily News that the former President admonished his younger sibling Basil Rajapaksa for derailing the vote and threatened to form his own party if his political decisions were continually undermined by other individuals in the SLPP. Former President Rajapaksa was reportedly also angry about Basil Rajapaksa’s recent statements which were perceived as being very unwelcoming of the SLFP 16 who recently quit the Government and joined the opposition. The former President believes his ‘saloon door’ should be open to everyone, while SLPP sources said Basil Rajapaksa favours a more discerning approach. Those who want to join SLPP and the JO should not have one foot in one camp and the other foot in another camp, Basil Rajapaksa publicly said. He told the media that the SLPP would not accept the SLFP MPs who recently quit the Government as long as they continue to hold membership within the SLFP. “They must take membership in the SLPP,” he demanded.

The comments angered the SLFP 16 who went public with their own criticism of the SLPP frontliner and Rajapaksa sibling.

Meanwhile, the head of a media and advertising conglomerate, well-known to be linked to former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and supports his 2020 election bid, reportedly received a major public dressing down from Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna frontliner and former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa at a social event at a five-star hotel last week, according to highly placed sources.

An irate Basil Rajapaksa warned the media proprietor of dire consequences if he continued to use his popular television station to attack him. The reprimand occurred in former President Rajapaksa’s presence and in front of dozens witnesses who were shellshocked by Basil’s outburst.
While the idea of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for candidate from the Rajapaksa faction is gaining ground, sources close to former President say this proposition is not finding favour with Mahinda Rajapaksa. Reports said the recent events of a meeting between the former President and US Ambassador Atul Keshap also stemmed from this disapproval of the Gota 2020 candidacy on the part of the former President. The reports of the dialogue with the US envoy initially published in a Tamil language newspaper, was relayed by sources extremely close to the former President, it is learnt. It is unclear which of his brothers the former President backs for the presidency, since he himself cannot contest the 2019 poll, barring a change of the constitution.

The ‘old left’ faction of the Joint Opposition has already made it clear that their preferred Rajapaksa candidate is the eldest sibling Chamal, a former Speaker of Parliament and Ports Minister.

Speaking to the media recently, UPFA MP and JO frontliner Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who is known to be a close confidant of the former President, said they preferred Chamal Rajapaksa because he was the type of ‘left of centre’ candidate that best reflected the kind of Government the JO wanted to form in the future. Hawkish sections of the JO, including Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila have shown a clear preference to have Gotabhaya Rajapaksa contest the presidency. But JO sources say the ultimate decider of the Rajapaksa faction’s presidential nominee will be Mahinda Rajapaksa himself.

“And his decision will be based on which candidate will be best for his own family, in terms of dynastic ambitions as well,” said one SLFP MP who did not wish to be named.
(Daily News)

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