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Not aware that Sri Lanka ruling party plans to back incumbent: former president

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ECONOMYNEXT — Former president and leader of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Mahinda Rajapaksa said he is not aware that a section of his party intends to support President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the upcoming election.

Responding to a question from a reporter that a group of the SLPP has decided to extend their support to Wickremesinghe, Rajapaksa said : “No, I’m not aware of such a thing. These are all statements. It’s not something anyone has said publicly, is it?”

The former president said the SLPP is confident of victory at a future election.

“There is no problem, is there? We will definitely win. We will contest the election and we will win,” he said.

The Sunday Times reported on March 24 that at a formal meeting between SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa and President Wickremesinghe last week, the former had told the latter that, if he so wished, he could seek the support of individual SLPP members, in which event the SLPP would not be officially backing him.

Several SLPP ministers, state ministers and MPs have already expressed their support for Wickremesinghe.

According to the Sunday Times report, the party is also open to endorsing Wickremesinghe’s candidacy with the terms of support open to discussion.

The SLPP and the Rajapaksas have been calling for early parliamentary elections. Subsequent to last week’s meeting, however, President Wickremesinghe has reportedly told his cabinet ministers that the presidential election will be held first.

The SLPP’s argument, officially, is that whatever party that wins the presidential election will be able to consolidate power by winning big at the parliamentary elections that will follow. This would not be in the best interest of democracy, Basil Rajapaksa claimed in one interview.

His older brother and former president Rajapaksa shared these sentiments in a recent remark made to reporters.

“We’re ready for any election. But the best thing is what Basil has proposed, to have the parliamentary election first followed by the presidential election,” the former president said.

“Otherwise, any party that wins the presidential election will score a major victory at the next parliamentary election. For there to be fairness, the parliamentary election must be held first,” he said. (Colombo/Mar27/2024)

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