Sirisena and Kumaratunga (2nd and 3rd from right) at press conference announcing his candidateship for presidency/ColollmboMirror
The general secretary of President Rajapaksa’s SLFP, Maithripala Sirisena, announced on Friday that he would contest the presidential election as the opposition’s common candidate.
“I thank all political parties and political groups for selecting me as the Common Candidate,” Sirisena, who is also the minister of health, said at a special press conference in Colombo, flanked by former president Chandrika Bandranaike Kumaratunga and other officials who have left the government.
The minister said a catastrophe had befallen the country and vowed to bring change, pledging to abolish the executive presidency within 100 days of being elected as president.
“One family is creating a soft dictatorship,” Sirisena told reporters today in Colombo. “There is corruption, injustice and rule of law has broken down. We have taken a decision to change the situation.”
Sirisena expressed his gratitude to the UNP and said he would appoint UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe as the prime minister, if elected.
Sirisena attending a recent function as health minister (Photo @AzzamAmeen)
Sirisena also has the support of the Sarath Fonseka-led Democratic National Alliance, represented by former cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga. During the 2010 presidential election Sirisena compared Fonseka, who is thought to have committed mass atrocities during his time as army commander, to Adolf Hitler.
The minister previously called on "patriotic people" to rally against conspiracies, including "resolutions brought by the LTTE", who with the support of the west, attempt to split the country.
Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne, Education Services Minister Duminda Dissanayake, Buddha Sasana & Religious Affairs Deputy Minister M.K.D.S. Gunawardana, MPs Wasantha Senanayake, former foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera and presidential adviser Rajiva Wijesingha, were also present at the press conference.
The SLFP has now stripped the defectors of all posts and their party memberships.
The government announced earlier today that the presidential elections will be held on January 8, a few days before the visit by Pope Francis.