Presidential election date announced as Government suffers senior defections
Sri Lanka’s election commission has announced that the Presidential election will be held on 8th January 2015. Nominations close on 8th December.
The announcement came as President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government saw the loss of a number of senior figures in what would appear to have been a pre-planned mass defection.
Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, and General Secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) addressed a state function shortly before he announced that he would be standing against President Rajapaksa in the Presidential election. The Daily Mirror reports the Minister as saying that “Time solves a lot of things. This may be my last state function. People give power not to abuse it and make money. It’s given to serve the people. This power should never be abused. No one should be drunk with power.”
Within hours the main opposition United National Party (UNP) announced that it would support Maithripala Sirisena as a common candidate. At the same time Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development announced that he too was defecting to support Sirisena in his presidential bid. Duminda Dissanayake, Minister of Education Services and M.K.D.S. Gunawardena, Deputy Minister of Buddasasana, also announced their defection.
Coordinating Secretary of the President’s Media Unit Wijeyananda Herath announced soon after that the President had removed all the ministers from their posts and any positions they held within the ruling party.
Rajiva Wijesinghe of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka and Vasantha Senanayaka of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) have also decided to back Maithripala Sirisena in the 8th January election.
The Island Newspaper reports that Maithripala Sirisena has secured the support of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
In a speech made outside the Town Hall in Colombo Maithripala Sirisena, describing the Rajapaksa government as dictatorial pledged that he would abolish the Executive Presidency within 100 days of his election and would appoint opposition leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, as Prime Minister. The Presidential candidate also announced that he would reintroduce the 17th Amendment of the Constitution and the 18th Amendment, which enabled the President to seek more than two terms as well as control the judiciary, would be abolished.