Sri Lankan Buddhist Monk to Contest Presidency

Xinhua, Nov 29, 2009

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Making a record in Sri Lanka's election history, Buddhist monk Venerable Battaramulle Seelaratana Thera will run for the president in the polls scheduled to be held next January, party officials said on Saturday.

He will be the country's first Buddhist monk to contest presidency representing his own political party Janasetha Peramuna under the party symbol of tractor, officials from his party said.

Contrary to the popular demand of the opposition -- abolition of the executive presidency -- the Buddhist monk wants the executive powers be remained with the president as he believes that the unity and stability of the country depend on executive powers of the leader.

The posters of Seelaratana Thera have come up on the walls in the capital Colombo.

The Buddhist monk said both the ruling alliance led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the opposition led by former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka have approached him but would only support the segment which agrees with his policy.

Among his main pledges are giving the Buddhism foremost place, guarantee the equal rights of all communities (Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and other ethnic groups), making Sinhala, Tamil and English state languages, as well as implementing an economic policy based on agriculture.

Fonseka, who was silence about his arrival into politics, has confirmed that he would be the opposition's common candidate at the forthcoming presidential polls.

He said he would announce his future plans at his first media conference on Sunday.

The presidential candidates increased up to four with the decision of the New Leftist Front leader Wickramabahu Karunaratne to run for presidency.

The presidential election will be held on Jan. 26 next year and the nominations will be made on Dec. 17.

In the capital Colombo, the huge hoardings of Rajapskse standing together with Fonseka after the military victory against Tamil Tigers in May have removed. They have been replaced by the colorful pictures of Rajapakse.