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Sri Lankan leader's party to support Rajapaksa in polls

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Sri Lankan leader's party to support Rajapaksa in polls
News

News

Sri Lankan leader's party to support Rajapaksa in polls

2019-10-10 00:15 Last Updated At:00:20

Sri Lanka's president will stay neutral in the upcoming presidential election but his party will back a breakaway party candidate, front-runner Gotabaya Rajapaksa, officials said Wednesday.

Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara said President Maithripala Sirisena has temporarily stepped aside from leading the party to ensure his neutrality. He said the decision was made because questions could arise about the impartiality of police, which Sirisena oversees.

The move is seen as an attempt by the ramshackle party to stay relevant after losing a majority of its loyalists to the breakaway Sri Lanka People's Front, which Rajapaksa is using to contest the election.

Supporters listen to Sri Lankan presidential candidate and former defense chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa during his maiden election campaign rally in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.Sri Lanka's president will stay neutral in the upcoming presidential election but his party will back a breakaway party candidate, front-runner Gotabaya Rajapaksa, officials said Wednesday. ( AP PhotoSajeewa Chinthaka)

Supporters listen to Sri Lankan presidential candidate and former defense chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa during his maiden election campaign rally in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.Sri Lanka's president will stay neutral in the upcoming presidential election but his party will back a breakaway party candidate, front-runner Gotabaya Rajapaksa, officials said Wednesday. ( AP PhotoSajeewa Chinthaka)

It is the first time that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the country's second-largest for more than six decades, has not fielded a candidate in a major national election.

Party Vice President Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters that the decision to support Rajapaksa, a former defense chief, was made with the backdrop of the volatile security situation following Easter Sunday bomb attacks that killed more than 260 people.

"He is a proven administrator," Samarasinghe said.

Rajapaksa, who served under his brother, former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is popular among majority Sinhalese for his part in ending a long civil war against ethnic minority Tamil rebels a decade ago. He has been accused of condoning rights abuses.

Rajapaksa said at his inaugural election rally in the northwestern town of Anuradhapura on Wednesday that he will ensure the release of all soldiers being held for alleged human rights violations as soon as he is elected.

The step, if carried out, would reverse the current government's commitment to the U.N. Human Rights Council that alleged rights violations by both government soldiers and the Tamil Tiger rebels will be investigated, and courts will be set up to try suspects with the help of international prosecutors and judges.

He said he and the soldiers freed the country from the Tamil Tigers, and "a large number of soldiers who committed themselves to this cause have been falsely accused and put in prisons."

"I want to say at this moment that on the morning of Nov. 17, all of them will be freed," he said.

The decision by Sirisena's party to back Rajapaksa came after Sirisena decided not to seek reelection, apparently finding it difficult to beat Rajapaksa.

A record 35 candidates filed nominations on Monday for the Nov. 16 election, with Rajapaksa considered the favorite.

The April 21 suicide attacks by seven Muslim militants also boosted Rajapaksa's fortunes, with many people praising his wartime role against the secessionist rebels. Sri Lankan leaders and the security establishment have been under fire for not acting on near-specific intelligence reports of possible attacks ahead of the bombings.

Sirisena has said he was kept in the dark about the reports and appointed a presidential commission to investigate the lapses.

National police chief Pujith Jayasundara was suspended and former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned. Both were later arrested after the presidential commission found grounds to charge them with dereliction of duties and criminal negligence. They were released on bail but on Wednesday a higher court canceled the bail and ordered them held in detention.

Associated Press writer Krishan Francis contributed to this report.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB

Oakland Athletics' Miguel Andujar hits an RBI single against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics' Miguel Andujar hits an RBI single against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics' Brent Rooker reacts after striking out against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics' Brent Rooker reacts after striking out against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics pitcher Ross Stripling (36) leaves during the fourth inning of the team's baseball game against the Houston Astros, Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics pitcher Ross Stripling (36) leaves during the fourth inning of the team's baseball game against the Houston Astros, Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics pitcher Kyle Muller throws to a Houston Astros batter during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics pitcher Kyle Muller throws to a Houston Astros batter during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman throws to first for the out on Oakland Athletics' Miguel Andujar during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman throws to first for the out on Oakland Athletics' Miguel Andujar during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics' JJ Bleday, right, celebrates with third base coach Eric Martins after hitting a solo home run against the Houston Astros during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Oakland Athletics' JJ Bleday, right, celebrates with third base coach Eric Martins after hitting a solo home run against the Houston Astros during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve hits a single against the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve hits a single against the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros' Kyle Tucker, right, is congratulated by Jon Singleton after scoring against the Oakland Athletics on Alex Bregman's single during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros' Kyle Tucker, right, is congratulated by Jon Singleton after scoring against the Oakland Athletics on Alex Bregman's single during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros' Justin Verlander pitches to an Oakland Athletics batter during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros' Justin Verlander pitches to an Oakland Athletics batter during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros' Jake Meyers (6) celebrates with Jon Singleton after hitting a three-run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Houston Astros' Jake Meyers (6) celebrates with Jon Singleton after hitting a three-run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 24, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

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