Colombo, Oct 10 (IANS): Former Sri Lankan Defence Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa has formally launched his campaign for the island nation’s upcoming presidential election on November 16, media reports said.
Rajapakse, who is also a leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), launched his campaign at an election rally at the Salgado Stadium in the ancient Buddist city of Anuradhapura on Wednesday, reports the Daily Mirror newspaper.
Former President and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, opposition party leaders, MPs, people’s representatives of the SLPP, also participated in Gotabaya’s rally.
While addressing the rally, Gotabaya focused on sweeping promises and populist policies that emphasised writing off farmers’ debts, ensuring stable prices, establishing a pension scheme for farmers and continuing the fertiliser subsidy, reported the Colombo-based Daily Financial Times newspaper.
Addressing hundreds of supporters, he blamed the current government under incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena for undermining the country’s defence and security apparatus.
He claimed that many war heroes were held in custody under bogus charges and pledged to have them released from custody if he was elected.
Gotabaya added that he was confident about the SLPP’s strategies and said that it would bring economic growth but stopped short of divulging the details of these strategies.
Meanwhile, his spokesman MP Dullas Alahapperuma said that the former Defence Minister would hold 26 district level rallies as part of his election campaign, the Daily Mirror reported.
“We will go to the North and East as well. Apart from district level meetings, 138 electorate level rallies would also be held,” the MP said.
Alahapperuma added that Gotabaya has already addressed 28 meetings of professionals and civil society activists including conventions of engineers, teachers, business people, Samurdhi activists and doctors.
On Monday, a record 35 candidates filed their nominations for the November 16 polls, where Gotabaya is considered a favourite.