News Features

Political party members after handing over their nominations

Speculations rife as WPC election race heats up

By Vindya Amaranayake
The Western Provincial Council election race has been heating up ever since the Council was prematurely dissolved on the midnight of January 28. There was much speculation as to who would receive nominations to run for the Council election. All doubts were put to rest last week when the nominations were closed at 1p.m. Thursday.

For the 102 seats in the Council, 14 political parties and 23 independent groups are fielding 2,048 candidates to contest at the elections to be held on April 25. Also, seven lists tendered by political parties and four tendered by independent groups in the three districts were rejected.

Of the two main parties, it was the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) that handed over its nominations first. The party which has been enjoying a streak of elections wins for a several years now, handed over its list of nominations a day ahead on Wednesday. Party General Secretary, Education Minister Susil Premajayantha, submitted the list of nominations to the Elections Commission. Accordingly, the party’s Colombo District list will be headed by former Councillor Sunil Jayamini while the Gampaha District contesters will be under the leadership of former Provincial Minister Prasanna Ranatunga. Kalutara District organisations are under former Chief Minister Reginald Cooray.

However, despite anticipations, the UPFA Chief Ministerial candidate for the Western Provincial Council has not been not named yet. Former Chief Minister Cooray has expressed wish to return to national politics, and therefore, naming a person for the top post in the Council has been the talk of town since the Council was dissolved. Speculation was rife that businessman Thilanga Sumathipala would receive nominations to run for the post, but party sources later revealed that they would choose a new and veteran party man to run for the Chief Minister post.

The main opposition United National Party’s (UNP) lists were handed over on Thursday. The party’s Colombo District list is led by former WPC Councillor Lakshman Abeygunaratna. Lawrence Madiwela is leading the Gampaha District and Kalutara District is led by Kithsiri Kahatapitiya. The UNP too has not come up with a Chief Ministerial nominee.

It has been the practice of the UNP during the recently concluded elections – especially North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Central Provincial Council elections, to nominate popular individuals for the Chief Ministerial post. Despite the fact that the party lost in all three provinces, the CM candidates managed to come on top with a massive number of preferential votes, surpassing the winning party’s candidates by an enormous margin.

It would be interesting to see if the UNP has changed its focus this time around, to make the party more attractive that having just one already popular candidate.
However, in case the UNP plans to stick to the same tactic, it would be interesting to see who the party would be bringing into the election battle this time.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which is contesting alone for the Western Province, has already nominated its Chief Ministerial candidate. It is their Gampaha District group leader Waruna Rajapaksa. An amusing fact to note is that the JVP candidate shares the name of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers who are at the helm of government at present.

Also, the JVP Colombo District list is headed by former Inter-University Student Council Convenor Duminda Nagamuwa. Their Kalutara District leader is Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa and the Gampaha District organisation will be carried out by Chief Ministerial candidate Waruna Rajapaksa himself.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) which has been deliberating over the election strategies for the last few weeks, has finally decided to contest alone in the Colombo District. The SLMC has expressively mentioned that this decision was not taken with the view of abandoning the UNP. However, in Gamapaha and Kalutara Districts, the SLMC is teaming up with Mano Ganesan’s Democratic People’s Front. This decision was taken to prevent minority votes from being divided between the two parties.

The election will elect 102 members – 43 from Colombo, 39 from Gampaha and 20 from Kalutara.