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Lanka's former Army chief Senanayake enters presidential race


Press Trust of India Colombo
Sri Lanka's former Army Commander General Mahesh Senanayake on Sunday announced his candidacy for the presidential election to be held in November.
Senanayake's presidential bid was announced at a rally held here by National People's Movement (NPM), a collective of civil organisations.
Addressing the rally, Senanayake, who retired as Army Commander in August, said that Sri Lanka needs an alternative force and he believes he is that alternative.
Senanayake said that politics has ruined the country so there needs to be an independent force to bring about change in the country.
The former Army Commander said that his team does not include politicians but academics and other experts.
I have no connections to politicians. My backers are the civil society its honourable men and women," said Senanayake, who was the commander of the Lanka Army between 2017 and August 2019.
A loyalist of the former presidential candidate and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Senanayake was forced to flee Sri Lanka for the fear of reprisals when Fonseka was defeated by Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2010 presidential election.
In 2015, with the defeat of Rajapaksa by the incumbent Maithripala Sirisena, Senanayake was reinstated in military service and was appointed the chief of staff of the Army.
Senanayake has become the fourth candidate to face the November 16 presidential election. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa from the Sri Lanka People's Party (SLPP), Sajith Premadasa from the ruling United National Party (UNP) and Anura Kumara Dissanayake from the new left front of the Marxist JVP are already in the fray.
It is still not clear if Sirisena would throw his hat in the ring as a candidate himself.
Addressing a gathering of his Freedom Party (SLFP) in Kurunegala, the north western town, Sirisena said his talks last night with the Rajapaksa brothers to contest the election under a common symbol had failed.
I told them that we cant contest under the flower bud symbol of the SLPP, they did not agree to it," he said.
The SLFP general secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the SLFP had had overtures from Premadasa to come to an electoral arrangement with the UNP.
I have informed the President (Sirisena) and we will make a decision soon on the UNP request, Jayasekera said.
The SLFP of Sirisena and the UNP led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were in an uneasy coalition and the differences led to the sacking of Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister in October last year.

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First Published: Sep 29 2019 | 8:35 PM IST

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