Prime Minister Wickremesinghe Calls For Buddhist Approach: Nikkei

Re-elected Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe said that a consensus among Sri Lankan political parties and civil society will be needed to take his policies forward after he officially resumes office in September.
 
"We want everyone to come out, think for the country, think for the people," he told reporters in his first press conference since his United National Party (UNP) won the highest number of seats in Monday's poll. "We can achieve unity in this country if we work together."
 
With slightly fewer than the 113 seats needed for a simple majority in the 225-member assembly, the UNP is expected to bring smaller parties into a coalition.
 
The UNP has ruled from a parliamentary minority since January, when President Maithripala Sirisena unexpectedly became president after defeating is predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
 
Although both Sirisena and Rajapaksa belong to the United People's Freedom Alliance (UFPA), they have become political foes. Indeed, Sirisena's defeat of Rajapaksa in January was helped by the rival UNP.
 
Rajapaksa, who was first elected president in 2005, called a snap presidential election in January after pushing through constitutional amendments to enable him to run for a third term in office.
 
Having lost the presidency, Rajapaksa has now also failed in his bid to become prime minister, with UFPA as the main runner-up this week.
 
Wickremasinghe, 66, hopes to restore friendly relations across party lines, and promote a culture devoid of "divisive politics". After conferring with President Sirisena, the prime minister will present his policies to parliament on Sept. 1.
 
He has meanwhile invoked the ancient Buddhist Lichhavi approach which advocates dialogue and discussion among all stakeholders to achieve consensus and peaceful co-existence.
 
Asked if such a spirit of reconciliation extended to Rajapaksa, his former mentor and main political rival, Wickremasinghe said, "It includes everyone."
 
Rajapaksa defeated Tamil separatists in 2009, bringing an end to a bloody 26-year civil war with the Sinhala majority. Although Tamil votes may have weighed against UFPA's fortunes, Rajapaksa personally secured 423,529 preferential votes, the largest number for any candidate, to secure his place in parliament.
 
Defeated twice in a year at the ballot box, and out of office, Rajapaksa remains a significant force as Sri Lanka's new leader of the opposition.
(Nikkei Asian Review)
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