Jun 30, 2019

Welgama removed from SLPP's Badulla district leadership

UPFA stalwart and Kalutara District Lawmaker Kumar Welgama fell victim to the ‘candidate wars’ within the recently founded Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday, for being overly critical of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapkasa’s plans to run for presidential office.

At the SLPP District Coordination Committee meeting held in Badulla yesterday, a motion was submitted to remove Welgama from the Badulla District leadership, which was passed unanimously by local authority members representing the Uva Province.

Thenuka Vidanagamage, a Badulla District UPFA MP who chaired the meeting accused Welgama of shooting off personal opinions in public, which ran contrary to the views of the SLPP. Vidanagamage told media that the Kalutara District MP had worked tirelessly to secure victory for the SLPP at local council elections held in February 2018. “But now he propagates his own opinions which are dissimilar to the party views. For instance, he openly says, that he will not support Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In this context, we faced massive pressure at grassroots level to remove him from the district leadership,” MP Vidanagamage told the media yesterday.

The motion to remove Welgama was submitted by SLPP members of the Hali-Ela and Bandarawela Pradeshiya Sabhas. The motion was seconded by SLPP members of the Badulla Municipal Council. Vidanagamage was named as Welgama’s replacement.

Speaking to the media , Welgama scoffed at his ‘sacking’ saying he had never been formally appointed district leader for Badulla since he is not a SLPP member.

The Kalutara District Lawmaker said that he had assisted the SLPP during the local council polls last year, because Badulla district politicians Nimal Siripala De Silva and Dilan Perera had thrown their weight behind President Maithripala Sirisena. “I decided to help Mahinda Rajapaksa and took on the responsibility,” he said in an interview.

Welgama added that he had told Basil Rajapaksa last week that he would not undertake SLPP organizing work, if the party was planning to field Gotabaya Rajapaksa as its presidential hopeful in 2019.

For months now, Kumar Welgama, who is seen as a staunch loyalist of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has fiercely criticised Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s plans to contest the presidency.

He has repeatedly and publicly claimed that Sri Lanka did not need a ‘Hitler’ or a ‘dictator’ and insisted that his party should support a democratically inclined politician to be its candidate in the 2019 elections.

Last week, Welgama also attended a religious function held at the SLFP headquarters which was held under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena.

Over the weekend, SLPP frontliner and party organiser Basil Rajapaksa refuted claims that he had declared Gotabaya Rajapaksa as candidate, claiming he had been misquoted in the media.

“The SLPP has not yet decided on its candidate, but a decision will be made next months and the nomination will be revealed to coalition partners and civil society organisations for approval,” Basil Rajapaksa clarified in press reports during the weekend.

It remains to be seen which Rajapaksa family member will ultimately be entrusted with the SLPP presidential candidacy.

Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, ex-Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and even former first lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa are reportedly being considered for the nomination.

Source - Sunday Observer