Sajith Premadasa could be a good match to Gotabaya in polls: Minister

The UNP leader ground level support to take on Gotabaya, says V. Radhakrishnan

A Sri Lankan Minister on Monday said the United National Party’s deputy leader, Sajith Premadasa, is likely to be a good match to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former Defence Secretary who will be fielded in the presidential election on behalf of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) headed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr. Premadasa has the support of the people on the ground and would be a good match against Mr. Gotabaya, said V. Radhakrishnan, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Special Areas Development.

“Ground level support is there for Sajith Premadasa. But ultimately, [UNP leader and Prime Minister] Ranil (Wickremasinghe) has to decide. If he comes to a decision and makes a good choice both (Mr. Gotabaya and Mr. Premadasa) will be equal candidates. It will be a tough fight,” Mr. Radhakrishnan told The Hindu.

Mr. Radhakrishnan, who was in the city, said Tamils and upcountry people would like the candidature of Mr. Premadasa, should he be chosen. “His father [late president] Ranasinghe Premadasa, in 1989, gave citizenship to us. So, people still have an affinity to him,” he said.

Mr. Radhakrishnan is part of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA). It was only after the UNP announces its candidate that the TPA would be able to decide on who to support. “Whoever has the capability to work for our community, uplift of our community, we will support him. Till then we can’t decide whom to support, because this is a Presidential election,” he said.

The Minister said Tamils were going to look at what Mr. Gotabaya is going to offer. “All the governments are cheating the Tamils from 1948. Everyone expected President Sirisena and PM Ranil to bring about a change. That too has not happened,” he said.

“Their (Tamils’) demand is for self-ruling opportunities. They want autonomy. They don’t have a problem with the Sinhalese, Muslims,” he said, adding the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which provided for devolution of power to the provinces, was not being implemented properly.

“After the war, Mr. Rajapaksa could have done, he didn’t…this government could have done it, they also didn’t. Tamils are disappointed. The candidates should make an announcement or assurance to implement the 13th Amendment,” he said.

The Minister said the citizens of the upcountry areas faced problems of wages, living conditions, school development and road development.

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