The Sri Lanka Freedom Party will support the candidacy of Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential election as President Maithripala Sirisena steps down from the party’s Chairmanship for the duration of the poll, the SLFP spokesman Weerakumara Dissanayake told RepublicNext this morning Oct 9.
“The President has decided to step down temporarily as his functions as Minister of Defense may come in the way of the restrictions on the use of state resources during an election period,” Dissanayake said.
He will also continue to function as the Head of State and the Minister of Mahaweli Development.
Sirisena is being temporarily replaced as Party Chairman by Professor Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa, head of the Mass Communications Department at the Kelaniya University. Piyadasa, a long-time SLFP stalwart was until the middle of this year General Secretary of the party.
Piyadasa told RepublicNext that the SLFP will sign two Memoranda of Understanding with Gotabaya and the SLPP.
He also revealed that SLFP MPs Duminda Dissanayake and Weerakumara Dissanayake will join Gotabaya’s first major political rally today in Anuradhapura.
The decision with regard to the chairmanship will be taken after November 17 when the elections are held, Dissanayake
The decision which side to back in the Presidential poll has wracked the SLFP for months and the decision arrived at last night was taken after several days of tortured discussion. SLFP members at the grassroots have told RepublicNext that many of them find backing the emergent Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna very difficult.
The push to back the SLPP came from a group of SLFP seniors led by Mahinda Amaraweera, Lasantha Alagiyawanna and Nimal Siripala de Silva. The last three have been openly advocating that position for the past few weeks.
De Silva, a senior vice president of the party announced his official support to Gotabaya on Sunday after his Constituent Council voted overwhelmingly to do so.