Sri Lanka JHU monks party joins coalition with UNP

Patali Champika Ranawaka

Sri Lanka’s main party of Buddhists monks is set to join the United National Party (UNP) in forming a new coalition to contest upcoming parliamentary election, political sources said a short while ago.

Talks with JHU’s Champika Ranawaka and the UNP had resulted in a new collaboration calling for good governance, the sources said. Ranawaka is also the Energy minister and a key figure behind President Maithripala Sirisena’s January 8 success.

“The UNP provided the votes to make Maithri the president and the JHU countered the ultra – nationalists who supported Mahinda,” said a UNP sources involved in the talks. “The JHU and the UNP will be a formidable combination that will be difficult to defeat.”

The emergency of the ultra-nationalist Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) which tacitly supported Mahinda Rajapaksa at the January presidential election made the JHU look more moderate and reasonable although the JHU was earlier seen as extremists.

Former president Rajapaksa in an interview with the French news agency AFP accused the BBS of ensuring of his defeat by driving the Muslims away from him. He accused the BBS of securing funding from Western nations to topple him, a charge the BBS angrily denied.

There was no immediate confirmation from the JHU about the emerging good governance coaltion, but UNP sources said JHU chief organiser Champika Ranawaka was expected to contest the August 17 election from the UNP kist of candidates from either Colombo or Ratnapura districts.

JHU’s Buddhist monk former MP Athuraliye Rathana was to get a UNP national list slot. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the country‚Äôs main Muslim party is also likely to join a UNP-led coalition.

The main figure behind Sirisena’s defection from the Rajapaksa government in November 2014, Rajitha Senaratne is expected to join the UNP list of candidates from Kalutara while he will also be joined by SLFP’s Hirunika Premachandra.

Premachandra is likely to contest from Colombo. She has been nursing her father’s home constituency of Kolonnawa where she challenged Duminda Silva who is currently under investigation for drug smuggling, money laundering and murder.

With the JUH and the SLFP faction that initially supported Sirisena joining ranks with the UNP has tremendously boosted the party’s chances at the general election.

Arjuna Ranatunga who took SLFP membership after supporting Sirisena is also likely to contest under the UNP, although talks were still underway, the sources said.