Rajapaksa Faction MP Becomes Leader of Opposition
COLOMBO: Even though the Rajapaksa and Sirisena factions of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) had technically merged after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa handed over the chairmanship of the party to the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday, the Rajapaksa faction has appointed Nimal Sripala de Silva as the Leader of the Opposition in parliament.
In other words, the party of which President Sirisena is chairman, is sitting in the opposition, and its leader in the House is going to function as the Leader of the Opposition.
As Leader of the Opposition, de Silva will be attacking the government which could include Sirisena, because the Lankan constitution allows the President to take portfolios. In fact, the norm is for the President to take the Defense portfolio. Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chandrika Kumaratunga had taken the Finance portfolio too.
In other words, the Rajapaksa faction of the SLFP is treating the government as a government of the United National Party (UNP), with UNP chief Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. In fact, the present government is virtually a UNP government because most of the ministers are from the UNP. The UNP was Sirisena’s main organizational prop during the Presidential election.
Political observers believe that this situation could lead to a conflict interest for Sirisena, and may jeopardize the cordial relations he now has with Wickremesinghe.
With defeated President Rajapaksa eager to come back to active politics, his entry into parliament could threaten Sirisena’s position even as it damages the ties between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickemesinghe.