Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says people want a change and he will lead the campaign to form a Sri Lanka Freedom Party-led government.
He had said this to the Reuters news agency today after it was confirmed that he was among the candidates nominated to contest the August 17 Parliament election.
President Maithripala Sirisena defeated Rajapaksa in a bitterly fought election in January. He was forced to give the former leader the nomination in the face of strong demands from his party or risk a split.
He becomes Sri Lanka’s first defeated leader to seek a legislative seat.
“Today, people wants a change. I’m leading the campaign with President Sirisena as the chairman of the party to form a Sri Lanka Freedom Party-led government,” Mahinda Rajapaksa told Reuters by phone after handing over the nomination documents.
Rajapaksa will stand in the country’s third-largest electoral district, Kurunagala, where most voters have relatives in the military.
Rajapaksa’s allies say if elected, he would immediately resume Chinese projects suspended by the Sirisena government.
Sirisena is re-examining certain projects in which China has invested, including a $1.4-billion port city in the capital, Colombo. China has already built a seaport and airport in Sri Lanka’s south, raising fears it is seeking influence in a country where neighbouring India has deep ties.
If his bid is successful, Rajapaksa will have more powers than any of his predecessors, after Sirisena enhanced some of the powers of the post with reforms in April. Sirisena will still have the power of a veto.
Rajapaksa and his regime still face a United Nations war crimes investigation. A report on alleged rights abuses in the final phase of the war is due in September. (Colombo Gazette)