2024 Prez poll: Champika denies alliance with MR-Ranil grouping, won’t contest



Patali Champika Ranawaka

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Rebel Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) lawmaker Patali Champika Ranawaka yesterday (31) denied speculative media reports pertaining to him being the presidential candidate of the ruling Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa alliance.

In a hastily issued statement over the weekend, the leader of the Eksath Janaraja Peramuna (EJP) emphasised that there was absolutely no basis for such claims.The next presidential election is scheduled to be held later this year. The parliamentary election is scheduled to be held thereafter.

Declaring that he wouldn’t close ranks with the Rajapaksas under any circumstances, the former Minister urged the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to replace party leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Ranawaka contested the last parliamentary election in August 2020 on SJB ticket.The SJB secured 54 seats, including seven National List slots.A co-founder of former Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Ranawaka said that Wickremesinghe, who had been picked by the SLPP as the eighth President, in July 2022, brazenly advanced the SLPP’s political agenda, hence there couldn’t be any alliance between his party and the incumbent administration. The MP alleged both Rahapaksas and Wickremesinghe promoted utterly corrupt business interests hell-bent on making money at the expense of the country and the people.

Referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster in July 2022, following an intense protest campaign (though apparently hatched by outside forces), Ranawaka said that his party had explicit faith in the public power to achieve their political objectives.

Commenting on various political proposals advanced by different parties, MP Ranawaka stressed that daunting challenges faced by the country couldn’t be overcome by pursuing now defunct JRJ, Premadasa strategies or socialist experiments. The parliamentarian who had served the Cabinets of both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena declared their efforts were meant to harness public opinion against the current corrupt set up and help facilitate a new social order.

A dissident SLPP MP told The Island that a section of the ruling party seemed uncertain about Wickremesinghe’s candidature at the presidential poll though the likes of Minister Kanchana Wijesekera publicly declared the party’s support for the incumbent President. Power and Energy Minister Wijesekera is on record as having said that the majority of the SLPP parliamentary group backed Wickremesinghe for a second term.

In July 2022 the SLPP, at a vote in Parliament, picked Wickremesinghe to complete the remainder of the five-year term won by Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the 2019 Nov presidential election.

The dissident SLPP lawmaker pointed out that a group, led by Gampaha District MP Nimal Lanza, that had been at loggerheads with the top leadership over criticism of the President’s policies, also backed Wickremesinghe’s candidature, regardless of SLPP National List MP Dammika Perera being promoted as their candidate.

MP Ranawaka said that both the Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghe had been rejected by the people and they couldn’t regain public confidence under any circumstances. MP Ranawaka was among those who voted against the Budget 2024 at the Third Reading of the Appropriation Bill on Dec 13. It was passed with a majority of 41 votes, with 122 for and 81 against. Jaffna District MP C.V. Wigneswaran was absent at the time of the voting.

MP Ranawaka said that his party was in touch with members of the SLPP, the UNP as well as the SJB. However, the EJP wouldn’t seek a consensus with the Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghe but would continue to work with other parliamentarians, he said.

The former Minister also dealt with the continuing controversy over the procurement of fake immunoglobulin. Declaring that the corrupt deal on the purchase of immunoglobulin had been first disclosed by Chairman of the EJP, Medical Specialist Ajith Amarasinghe, MP Ranawaka urged President Wickremesinghe to allow the law to take its course. According to MP Ranawaka, Dr. Amarasinghe had revealed the controversy pertaining to blood samples.

MP Ranawaka said that former Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and the others involved in the immunoglobulin scam shouldn’t be allowed to side-step the issue and escape justice.