Dr. Harsha too joins SJB as Sajith declares campaign on track

Harsha De Silva

Former Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva, yesterday, (13), said that he would contest the forthcoming parliamentary polls under the leadership of UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa.

Economist De Silva said that he would contest from Colombo at the April 25 poll though initially he decided to quit active politics.

The UNPer declared his support to the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). The former lawmaker said so in response to The Island query on Newsline on TV 1 presented by Faraz Shauketally.

The Island raised the issue with Dr. De Silva as he was not present at the opening of the SJB main office at Etul Kotte on March 09.

Widely considered as a Ranil Wickremesinghe loyalist, De Silva earlier functioned as the Deputy Minister of National Polices and Economic Affairs, State Minister National Policies and Economic Affairs and non-cabinet minister Economic Reforms and Public Distribution.

Responding to The Island query, De Silva emphasized that during his tenure he made a useful contribution.

Dr. De Silva threw his weight behind SJB amidst UNP efforts to discourage UNP members of Local Government authorities from backing the SJB. UNP General Secretary attorney-at-law Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, in a letter issued two days before the opening of SJB main office, warned Local Government members of disciplinary action in case they backed any other political party or grouping at the general election.

Expressing confidence they would remain faithful to the UNP, Kariyawasam said those pursuing agenda inimical to the party would be dealt with in terms of the Section 3.4 of the party Constitution.

UNPer De Silva expressed serious concern over the possibility in former JVP MP Sunil Handunetti being rejected by the electorate at the forthcoming election. Dr. De Silva quoted former MP Handunetti as having told him at an event organized by the March 12 Movement at the BMICH he was unlikely to get elected. De Silva blamed electoral system that deprived a person who should be in parliament the opportunity to serve the people.

Handunetti served the last parliament as a National List MP. The JVP accommodated him on the National List after he failed to get elected from the Matara District at the last parliamentary poll in 2015 August.

UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa told The Island that the SJB campaign was on track with all constituents of the previous UNP led government joining the new movement. Premadasa said that he was confident the vast majority of those elected and appointed on the UNP ticket and its National List, respectively, would contest under telephone symbol.

Election Commission commenced accepting nominations on March 12. Acceptance of nominations will continue till May 19.

Assuring protection for those threatened with disciplinary action, Sajith Premadasa said that his campaign was endorsed by the UNP Working Committee on January 30. Responding to another query, the UNP No 02 said that the JHU, the SLMC, the ACMC and several other political groups, including former UPFA MP Kumara Welgama’s New Lanka Freedom Party (NLFP) pledged their allegiance to SJB.

Premadasa said that the SJB was going ahead with its campaign regardless of despicable attempts to undermine their effort. The UNP Deputy Leader said that every effort was made to reach a consensus with all stake holders. Unfortunately, agreement couldn’t be reached, therefore the majority decided to proceed in terms of the January 30, 2020 Working Committee decision.

He said that their effort received spontaneous support as supporters quickly realized theirs was a genuine bid.

Those yet to accept the SJB could do so immediately or face the consequences. “We are in the process of finalizing nominations lists as well as the National List. Nominations by noon coming Thursday, March 19,” Premadasa said.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)