SLFP heavyweights are confident of bringing Prime Ministerial candidate Anura Bandaranaike on to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse`s presidential election platform.
Rajapakse is scheduled to launch his campaign from Anuradhapura today, his first meeting since nominations closed on Friday. Bandaranaike is scheduled to return on Saturday after an extended holiday in the US.
The `Sunday Island` learns that Bandaranaike last week indicated his wish to patch up differences with Rajapakse`s camp. He is believed to have been troubled by the view that Rajapakse would not respect his nomination as the prime ministerial candidate. His concerns have been brought to the notice of Rajapakse through an influential minister last week.
The minister is believed to have assured their unwavering commitment to the arrangement finalised at a meeting chaired by President Chandrika Kumaratunga in late July. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, too, had been present at this meeting at President`s House where the party bigwigs agreed on an unprecedented formula of naming both the presidential and prime ministerial candidates.
Bandaranaike is believed to be seeking a guarantee from Rajapakse`s camp. `He wants Rajapakse to reiterate the party`s decision,` a well informed source said.
Bandaranaike accompanied Kumaratunga to the UN General Assembly in New York and later flew to California. He had been away for a month. Political sources expressed confidence that Bandaranaike would join the campaign shortly.
In his last public speech before going overseas, Bandaranaike attacked Rajapakse. But campaign managers are convinced that he could be brought round as Kumaratunga recently assured them of her participation in the campaign.
`She would be addressing several selected meetings,` a ministerial aide said. Her first appearance would be at a rally scheduled to take place at Warakapola on October 14. She would also address rallies at Ratnapura, Senkadagala and Bibile.
Kumaratunga is expected to return from Paris at least two days before the Warakapola meeting on Friday.
The JVP would be represented at all meetings addressed by Rajapakse.
Party sources said that the JVP would be also campaigning separately.
The Sunday Island learns that the SLFP was also contemplating organising several meetings in honour of the outgoing President. The government Information Department last Thursday cancelled a hastily arranged press conference to announce this programme.
Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa who was billed to address the briefing along with S. B. Navinna, Jayaratne Herath, Salinda Dissanayake and Soma Kumari Tennakoon, said that he was not aware of this particular programme. `I would inquire into this,` Yapa who co-ordinates the state-media said. Meanwhile the state-media, particularly Rupavahini was coming under heavy fire from both parties with a senior minister taking up cudgels against the state-owned channel. Former Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera is believed to have rapped Rupavahini chiefs at a meeting at Temple Trees over its coverage of the ongoing presidential election campaign.
A senior Rupavahini official pointed out the difficulty in giving favoured treatment to any particular candidate. `We are trying to maintain a balance,` he said. Unfortunately politicians could not comprehend this.`