MR says he will be SLPP’s Prime Ministerial candidate

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says he will be the Prime Ministerial Candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

The Hindu quoted Rajapaksa as telling the Virakesari newspaper that under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution he will have more powers than the new President.

While his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a powerful war-time defence secretary, is widely expected to be named presidential candidate tomorrow (Sunday), Mahinda Rajapaksa will take over the leadership of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna officially, after being its de facto leader for nearly three years since it was launched as a platform backing him.

Leading Sri Lankan Tamil daily Virakesari today published a wide-ranging interview with Rajapaksa.

To Virakesari’s question on the minorities’ discomfort with Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s candidature, the Leader of Opposition said: “I don’t think there is truth in that. In reality, further to the [19th] constitutional amendment, the Prime Minister has more powers. I am the Prime Ministerial candidate [general elections are due next year], so we have to work together.”

To a question on his future plans for evolving a political solution to the island’s long-pending Tamil question, Rajapakasa is quoted as saying: “There are two strands of opinion now. Some want a new constitution. Some want a federal arrangement. And some say that a political solution based on the 13th Amendment would suffice. But a solution should not be one that divides the country. Look at what has just happened in Kashmir. We need to take steps keeping all these in mind. We have to understand these factors while we pursue a political solution.”

His reaction is among the first from Sri Lankan political leaders after New Delhi ended Jammu & Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. Earlier, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called it India’s “internal matter” in a tweet, in which he said Ladakh would become “the first Indian state with a Buddhist-majority” a claim that was subsequently challenged on social media, for its factual accuracy.

On his views of LTTE chief Prabakaran, in the context of the Easter terror attacks in April, Rajapaksa said: “He had an objective, he had direction and discipline. The path Prabakaran took was wrong, but there was discipline and restraint in his actions. He would strike when he wanted to and choose not to at other times. But the Easter attacks were not like that. They [terrorists] could attack at any time, and they are even willing to die for that.”