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Rajapaksa’s key ally pledges support to opposition

President Mahinda Rajapaksa

Colombo, Dec 2 (PTI) In another blow to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Buddhist heritage party, a key ally of the ruling coalition today pledged support to his main opposition challenger.

JHU or Buddhist heritage party, part of Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition and an influential party of Buddhist monks came out in support of Maithripala Sirisena, the common opposition candidate.

“We will make a ‘livable nation’ by defeating the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 8 presidential poll. We aim to create a nation with a political system which represents all political parties in order to create national unity,” Champika Ranawaka, JHU policy guru told reporters here.

The JHU signed a pact with Sirisena, the former Health Minister in the Rajapaksa government, separately after other opposition groups had entered into a similar pact with the common candidate.

“The whole legal system in the country has been politicised. There are serious questions about the independence of the judiciary. There is loss of confidence in the law and the judicial system,” Ranawaka said.

The JHU added that it feared President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime would resort to violence as it tried to cling to power.

“This election has the potential to be one of the most violent. As the campaign picks up, so will the violence,” said Udaya Gammanpila, a former provincial minister.

Explaining the joint opposition campaign, Ranawaka said political parties were free to contest the parliamentary election independently and the elections would ensure the victory of Sirisena.

The JHU has just three seats in the 225-member Parliament but the monks are considered influential among the country’s majority Buddhist community.

The party’s support was crucial for Rajapaksa during his win of the first term in 2005 and his second victory in 2010.

Rajapaksa has suffered a series of defections in the past two weeks to Sirisena’s camp with former president Chandrika Kumaratunga, Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne and several other parliamentarians having defected to opposition ranks saying  that the President “projects himself as virtuous, but he leads a dictatorial regime”.

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