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Sirisena allows Rajapaksa to run for Lankan parliament

Maithripala Sirisena

Colombo: In a surprise decision, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has allowed archrival Mahinda Rajapaksa – eyeing the Prime Minister’s post to stage a political comeback – to contest the August general elections, the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance said today.

Susil Premajayantha, the UPFA general secretary, said that following the last night meeting of the alliance’s constituent party leaders, Sirisena agreed to let Rajapaksa contest, six months after he vanquished the 69-year-old former strongman in the presidential polls.

Rajapaksa had publicly announced on Wednesday for the first time since he lost to Sirisena in the January polls that he wanted to run for parliament in the August 17 election.

His attempted return to UPFA fold was being blocked by Sirisena in keeping with the mandate he received against Rajapaksa.

Till late last night, the former Sri Lankan president’s attempt to stage a political comeback and become the prime minister had suffered a setback when talks within the UPFA to let him lead the campaign in the general elections failed.

Constituent party leaders of the UPFA had met Sirisena to make a last-ditch attempt to see if Rajapaksa could be made the primeministerial candidate in the parliamentary elections.

Rajapaksa has vowed to eliminate corruption in public life though his decade-long rule was marked with corruption allegations, nepotism and disregard to rule of law.

Sirisena is under pressure from civil society groups to probe the allegations since Rajapaksa vowed during his presidential campaign to eliminate corruption from public life.

Several top-ranking officials of Rajapaksa’s administration, including his two brothers and wife, have been interrogated on misappropriation charges.

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