B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Two prominent parliamentarians from Sri Lanka’s main opposition party have defected to the ruling side on the eve of filing of nominations for the January 26 presidential election.

United National Party (UNP) parliamentarians Johnston Fernando and Indika Bandaranayake were unhappy over party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to field General (retired) Sarath Fonseka instead of a party candidate in the presidential poll. They were awarded ministerial berths by President Mahinda Rajapaksa within hours of them pledging to work for his success in his bid for a second term.

Candidates from 17 political parties and five independents have paid the required deposit money to the Election Commission for next month’s poll. Nominations will be accepted from 9 to 11 a.m. on Thursday and candidates eligible to contest would be announced by the Commissioner of Elections after 1 p.m.