June 28, Colombo: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa plans to contest the upcoming general election as the prime ministerial candidate of the main opposition party, loyalists to the former president say.
Kumara Welgama, a former minister in the previous government of Rajapaksa has told the media that the former president seeks to contest the August 17 parliamentary elections under the betel leaf symbol of the former ruling party United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).
"He will be the prime ministerial candidate of either the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) or the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA)," Mr Welgama was quoted as saying to the media.
Welgama said the six-member committee appointed by the SLFP to resume dialogue between party leader, President Maithripala Sirisena and Rajapaksa has secured the candidature of Mr Rajapaksa as the PM candidate.
However, last week the leader of the six-member committee, former minister and SLFP Senior Deputy Chairman John Seneviratne denied reports that the committee unanimously decided to nominate former president as the party's prime ministerial candidate.
According to Welgama all attempts would be made to unite the political parties in the UPFA, including the main opposition SLFP, and put forward Rajapaksa as the UPFA prime minister candidate.
He hoped President Maithripala Sirisena, as UPFA chairman, would take a stand with regard to the nominations to be given to UPFA candidates, keeping in mind the best interest of the country.
However, the President Sirisena earlier has declined to nominate his predecessor as the UPFA's prime ministerial candidate.
President Sirisena when he met with the representatives of the UPFA last month has said that he could not agree to offer nominations to the former President to contest the next election under the betel symbol of the UPFA as the prime ministerial candidate.
Meanwhile the SLFP faction loyal to the former president has said that they will announce their prime ministerial candidate on 01 July and they will begin the campaign with the first election rally on 06 July at Anuradhapura.
The nominations for the elections will be accepted from 6 July till noon 13 July.