COLOMBO (AFP) – A senior member of Sri Lanka’s government announced Friday he is quitting the ruling party to stand as the main opposition’s candidate against President Mahinda Rajapakse in upcoming elections.
“I thank the UNP (United National Party) for choosing me as the common opposition candidate,” said Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who is also general secretary in Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
“I am grateful to the UNP for choosing the general secretary of the SLFP to be their candidate,” he added. “We will definitely win.”
Sirisena made his announcement at a press conference in Colombo, seated alongside three other ministers and former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is the main patron of the president’s party. Rajapakse, who came to power in 2005, declared on Thursday that he will seek an unprecedented third term as president – a move that was only made possible after he pushed through changes to the constitution.