Senior member of the Joint Opposition, Parliamentarian Kumara Welgama, in a challenge of sorts to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, yesterday said the Presidential candidacy cannot be kept within one political family.
MP Welgama told Daily FT that he was against family bandyism and nepotism.
“It is my position that the Presidential candidacy should be open to others and not just family members. I’m completely against family bandyism,”
The Joint Opposition and Sri Lanka Freedom Party stalwart was referring to the statements made by former President Rajapaksa during his recent interview with an Indian newspaper. In the interview, Rajapaksa says that his brother is a certain contender for the Presidential candidacy in 2020 as his eldest son is still below the age limit of 35. Welgama said that one of the main reasons for the former President’s loss in 2015 was his family.
“One of the main reasons he lost the Presidential election in 2015 was because of his family members and their activities. Another reason was because he had surrounded himself with a bad crowd, some truly nasty people who do things like assault the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom,” Welgama said, referring to the assault on former High Commissioner Chris Nonis by former Parliamentarian Sajin Vaas Gunawardana.
He then pointed out that there were many other senior parliamentarians and politicians who could easily take up the Presidential mantle.
“If it was the Mahinda Rajapaksa contesting the Presidential election, he would have my fullest support. If he is not contesting, the candidacy should be open to others. There are so many experienced, senior politicians in both the Joint Opposition and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna,” Welgama said, then citing past Presidential candidacies that were given reluctantly.
“Former President J. R. Jayawardene did not like Premadasa but he gave him the candidacy. Similarly, the former President did not like Mahinda Rajapaksa getting the nomination but Rajapaksa grabbed the candidacy. This is a similarly situation.”
Speaking of the former Defence Secretary, MP Welgama said that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa must first clear his name.
“If he is considering Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the Presidential candidate, then Gotabhaya must first clear his name. He must revoke his dual citizenship. Without doing these things, there’s no point even talking about a Gotabhaya candidacy,” he added.
Thereafter, MP Welgama warned of fears in the Joint Opposition about the Presidential candidacy being kept in one family and that the former President would be faced with discontent within the coalition if he insists on nominating family member.
“There are many more suitable politicians than the brothers of the former President as Presidential candidates. The former President must realise that. Look at Maithripala Sirisena. He was not appreciated and given the right place in the party and he went on to steal the Presidency from Mahinda Rajapaksa. The former President cannot afford to make the same mistakes. He cannot afford another blunder,” he said.