Millennium Post

Lanka opposition parties unite against Rajapaksa before polls

Lanka opposition parties unite against Rajapaksa before polls
Sri Lanka’s opposition parties formally launched their bid Sunday to topple long-serving President Mahinda Rajapaksa at January elections, with prayers and public meetings in the island’s old capital of Polonnaruwa.

Main opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena, 63, who quit as health minister last week from Rajapaksa’s government, was expected to address a rally later Sunday in Polonnaruwa, in the heart of the country’s “rice bowl”.

“Maithripala Sirisena represents the boiling resentment within the government of the Rajapaksa family rule,” said former fisheries minister Rajitha Senaratne, one of 11 members of Rajapaksa’s government to quit and support Sirisena in recent weeks.

Sirisena and other opposition figures were receiving Buddhist blessings at a temple and holding public meetings ahead of the rally in Polonnaruwa, which has been decked out in flags bearing their parties’ colours.

Presidential elections are set for January 8, with Rajapaksa seeking a record third term -- a move that was only made possible after he pushed through changes to the constitution.

Sirisena, who defected to the main United National Party, has secured the support of key, smaller opposition parties, representing a major challenge to Rajapakse, the region’s longest-serving leader.
The defections, including that of another cabinet minister, Naveen Dissanayake, on Sunday, have also dealt Rajapaksa and his Sri Lanka Freedom Party a severe blow.

“I cannot remain in a government that is so corrupt,” Dissanayake, the minister for public administration reform, told reporters in Colombo on Sunday. 



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