Sri Lanka PM, 44 ex-MPs defect from party led by president ahead of election





By Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's new prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and 44 former lawmakers have defected from the party led by President Maithripala Sirisena, splitting with the president barely two weeks after he installed Rajapaksa in office.

Sirisena dissolved parliament on Friday night and called a general election for Jan. 5 in a move that has drawn international criticism as it is likely to deepen the country's political crisis.

An intense power struggle has erupted in Sri Lanka in the past two weeks following Sirisena's sudden sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the appointment of former leader Rajapaksa, a pro-China strongman, in his place.

Rajapaksa and 44 former lawmakers of the Sirisena-led center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Sunday joined Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP), a political party formed in 2016 by Rajapaksa's younger brother Basil, a former economy minister.

An SLPP source said 65 out of 82 former SLFP MPs will eventually join the new party.

Namal Rajapaksa, an ex-lawmaker and son of Rajapaksa, said the SLFP's policies had not been pursued by Sirisena in the coalition government with the Wickremesinghe-led center-right United National Party (UNP).

"We all decided that this is the right time to join the SLPP," he told Reuters.

The SLPP recorded a landslide victory in local polls in February after Rajapaksa backed it. He did that while remaining in the SLFP.

Sirisena's allies have told Reuters that he wants a SLFP-led government. However, the defections will weaken Sirisena's more than seven-decade old party, they say.

Rohana Piyadaya, the SLFP secretary general declined to comment on the defections.

Sirisena's move to sack the parliament has drawn international criticism.

Farhan Haq, the spokesman for United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, said in a statement that Guterres has underlined the utmost importance of respecting democratic processes and institutions and resolving differences in accordance with the rule of law and due process.

"He renews his call on the Government to ensure peace and safety for all Sri Lankans and uphold its commitments to human rights, justice and reconciliation," the spokesman said.

Sirisena previously defected from the SLFP, then led by Rajapaksa, in 2014 to join an opposition coalition that ousted Rajapaksa.

Later Sirisena rejoined the SLFP, took over its leadership and formed a national government with Wickremesinghe's party.

However, a rift developed over policy towards China and India - Wickremesinghe has favored Indian investment as a counter to Chinese inroads in Sri Lankan infrastructure projects - and over Sirisena's intention to contest the 2020 presidential election under Wickremesinghe's party.

(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Martin Howell and Toby Chopra)

COMMENTS

More Related News

The politics of a plot to kill Sri Lanka
The politics of a plot to kill Sri Lanka's president
  • World
  • 2018-12-14 05:32:45Z

President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in October, just weeks after a little-known social activist alleged he had heard of a plot to assassinate the president from a police officer. Reuters has learned that investigators have not found any substantial evidence to back

Court rules against Sri Lanka president, impeachment edges closer
Court rules against Sri Lanka president, impeachment edges closer

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court opened the way for potential impeachment proceedings against the president on Thursday, ruling that he broke the law by dissolving parliament last month. The verdict is a major blow to Maithripala Sirisena, seven weeks into a political crisis in the Indian Ocean island nation that has sparked alarm abroad and concern over its finances. The seven-judge bench unanimously agreed that Sirisena violated the constitution when he dissolved parliament last month and called a snap election nearly two years ahead of schedule.

Sri Lanka top court rules parliament dissolution as illegal in setback for president
Sri Lanka top court rules parliament dissolution as illegal in setback for president

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to dissolve parliament ahead of its term as illegal, in a setback for the embattled leader in his face off with an elected premier. Sirisena dissolved parliament on Nov. 9 and called a general election for Jan. 5 days after sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and naming opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to the post. "President can't dissolve parliament before four-and-half years," Supreme Court Judge Sisira de Abrew said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.