Categories: world

Sri Lanka PM, 44 ex-MPs defected from party led by president before election

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka's new prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and 44 former legislators have failed from the party led…

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s new prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and 44 former legislators have failed from the party led by President Maithripala Sirisena, divide the president shortly two weeks after he installed Rajapaksa in the office.

PHIL PHOTO – Profile pictures of Sri Lanka’s newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa (R) and President Maithripala Sirisena are being seen on a wall at the Prime Minister’s Office during a press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 1

0, 2018. REUTERS / Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sirisena dissolved parliament Friday night and called a general election for January 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 last two weeks after Sirisen’s sudden departure from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the appointment of former leader Rajapaksa, a pro-China stronger, in his place.

Rajapaksa and 44 former legislators from the Sirisena led center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Sunday went to Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP), a political party formed in 2016 by Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil, a former Minister of Economy.

A SLPP source said that 65 of 82 former SLFP members will eventually join the new party.

Namal Rajapaksa, an ex-lawmaker and son of Rajapaksa, said the SLFP policy had not been run by Sirisena in the coalition government with the Wickremesinghe-led Center-Right UN Party (UNP).

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

SLPP filmed a local squad in local polls in February after Rajapaksa supported it. He did while he remained in SLFP.

Sirisena Allies have told Reuters that he wants a SLFP-led government. However, the defects will weaken Sirisena more than seven decades old parties, they say.

Rohana Piyadaya, SLFP Secretary General refused to comment on the defects.

Sirisena moves to parliament has drawn international criticism.

Farhan Haq, spokesman for UN Secretary General António Guterres, said in a statement that Guterres has emphasized the utmost importance to respect democratic processes and institutions and resolve differences in accordance with the rule of law and fair processes.

“He renews his call to the government to ensure peace and security for all Sri Lanka and to maintain its commitments to human rights, justice and reconciliation,” said the spokesman.

Sirisena failed previously from the SLFP, led by Rajapaksa, in 2014 to join an opposition coalition that eradicated Rajapaksa.

Later Sirisena reunited the SLFP, took over its leadership and formed a national government with Wickremesinge’s party.

However, a rift developed over China and India policy – Wickremesinghe has favored Indian investment as a opposition to Chinese influences in Sri Lanka’s infrastructure projects – and over Sirisena’s intention to contest the presidential election in 2020 during the Wickremesing party.

Reporting of Shihar Aneez; Further Reporting of Ranga Sirilal; Editing Martin Howell and Toby Chopra

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Published by