Sri Lanka president vows to block Rajapakse's PM bid

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena addresses a press conference in Colombo on July 14, 2015.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena addresses a press conference in Colombo on July 14, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena dashed Mahinda Rajapakse’s hopes Thursday of a political comeback in next week’s general election by vowing to veto any attempt by his predecessor to become prime minister.

In a letter to his former mentor, Sirisena said he would invoke executive powers to choose someone else from their United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) to lead the government should it triumph in Monday’s polls.

“Should the party secure a majority, the prime minister should be another senior, but not you,” Sirisena said in a five-page letter to Rajapakse whom he toppled as president in January.

“Even if I have to intervene to form a coalition, you will not be the prime minister.”

Sirisena named seven other party seniors, including Rajapakse’s elder brother Chamal Rajapakse, as potential prime ministerial candidates should their party win.

The two men had been allies until late last year when Sirisena quit as health minister in order to stand against the veteran strongman in the January 8 presidential election.

Many observers were stunned by Sirisena’s victory over Rajapakse who had been in power for nearly a decade and oversaw the crushing of the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in 2009.

Although Rajapakse is reviled by large sectors of the minority Tamil community, he retains widespread support among ethnic Sinhalese voters and his rallies have drawn big crowds.

Sirisena is the official leader of the UPFA and only reluctantly agreed to allow Rajapakse to stand for the party in the elections.