General Elections: UPFA factions wrangle over Pohottuwa or beetle leaf

There is a tug-of-war between the sections of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) on the selection of a symbol to contest the next general elections, it is learnt.

The UPFA faction, loyal to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, insists that they should contest the polls under the lotus bud or Pohottuwa symbol of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). As a step towards this, these MPs who worked under the banner of the Joint Opposition including the Prime Minister took membership of SLPP ahead of elections yesterday.

Along with them, eight MPs of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) also received SLPP membership. They are Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane, Chandima Weerakkody, T.B. Ekanayake, Sumedha G. Jayasena, Susantha Punchinilame, Sudarshani Fernandopulle and Taranath Basnayake.

Ratnapura district MP Ranjith de Zoysa, who is from the Joint Opposition, told Daily Mirror that Pohottuwa was an attractive and appealing symbol, and therefore his party would be happy if all could unite under it to contest the elections.

“It is a fresh symbol that is popular and appealing to people,” he said.

However, UPFA MP Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training Dayasiri Jayasekera said he was not ready to take up the SLPP membership purely for political ends.

“I am not willing to get its membership merely for my convenience in getting elected next time. There has to be a mechanism to protect the SLFP,” he said.

Minister Jayasekera said he would seek to contest under a broad alliance under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“It is an alliance that should accommodate all the progressive forces,” he said.

Earlier, UPFA Secretary Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said it would be better if all could contest under his party’s beetel symbol.