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CBK, Anura keep away from Mahinda’s campaign

by Shamindra Ferdinando
Courtesy The Island 03-10-2005

Contrary to reports, President Chandrika Kumaratunga is unlikely to join Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s presidential election campaign shortly. Kumaratunga yesterday left on a semi-official visit to France after presiding at Friday’s executive committee meeting at Janadhipathi Mandiraya, where she declared that the ruling coalition would resolve the north-east crisis on the basis of a federal resolution.

She is scheduled to address the 33rd session of the UNESCO General Conference tomorrow (3). She is one of the two world leaders scheduled to address this year’s conference, the other being President of Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor.

Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake will act as Minister of Defence. According to the Presidential Secretariat, Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Dinesh Gunawardena will act as Ministers of School Education and Higher Education. Deputy Ministers Dilan Perera and Lasantha Alagiyawanne will act as the Ministers of Media and Transport, while Deputy Minister D. M. Dassanayake will act as Minister of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.

Kumaratunga would return shortly, the sources said. But she would leave for Japan after a brief stay in Colombo. The sources speculated that Kumaratunga probably would not be in Colombo when Rajapakse hands over his nomination papers on October 7 for the November 17 presidential elections. But other sources said that she would be back before October 7.

Kumaratunga is also expected to meet French President Jacques Chirac during her stay.

Kumaratunga returned last Tuesday evening after being away for over two weeks. Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike is likely to be back from California on the eve of the nominations. Bandaranaike chosen as the prime ministerial candidate is yet to address a campaign meeting, while Kumaratunga addressed a gathering in Colombo once. Some speculated that Bandaranaike may meet Kumaratunga in France but others dismissed the idea.

Prime Minister Rajapakse was going ahead with the campaign, party sources said, expressing confidence in what an insider termed as joint Rajapakse-JVP strategy. He said it was absurd to appoint a committee to work out Rajapakse’s presidential elections manifesto. The committee was named on Friday, he said, adding that its chairperson Kumartunga and member Bandaranaike were both out of the country.

Kadirgamar’s successor is believed to have visited the Foreign Ministry only once. Susil Premjayanth, Maithripala Sirisena, Sarath Amunugama and Mangala Samaraweera are the other members of the committee. Amunugama returned from an overseas visit yesterday.

Party sources said that another committee had been appointed to coordinate with political parties that have pledged backing for Rajapakse. Sources said that this committee would not serve any real purpose.

"We are simply wasting time," an official said accusing an influential section of undermining the Prime Minister’s campaign. However, the vast majority of party seniors and the grassroot-level leadership have pledged their support for Rajapakse, he said.



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