Three Ministers Resign Protesting Sirisena’s Remarks Against Rajapaksa
COLOMBO: Three Sri Lankan Deputy Ministers resigned on Thursday in protest against President Maithripala Sirisena’s televised statement in which he predicted the defeat of his own party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), in the August 17 parliamentary elections, and vowed that he will not appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister even if the SLFP wins the elections.
Deputy Ministers Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Lasantha Alagiyawanna and Eric Prasanna Weerawardena told the media that they have sent in their resignations to the President.
Sri Lanka has a coalition government comprising a section of the SLFP, the United National Party (UNP), and other smaller parties. While President Sirisena belongs to the SLFP, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is from the UNP.
Deputy Minister Sudarshani Fernandopulle said that Sirisena’s anti-Rajapaksa and anti-SLFP remarks have dealt a blow to SLFP unity, when unity of the party is badly needed to prevent the country from going into the hands of the authoritarian UNP.
Asked if the SLFP leaders will meet and throw Sirisena out of the Chairmanship of the party, Fernandopulle said that such a step could be considered by the Central Committee (CC) when it meets next.
But Rajitha Senaratne, a Sirisena loyalist, countered this. The CC cannot be convened without the permission of Chairman Sirisena, he pointed out. On Wednesday, the Colombo District Court had stayed a meeting of the CC on the grounds that it did not have the Chairman’s permission to meet.
Deputy Minister Eric Weerawadana said that Sirisena’s statement has made the SLFP cadre even more determined to rally round Sirisena’s rival, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and take the party towards victory.
Former MP and SLFP Muslim leader A.H.M.Azwer described Sirisena’s remarks as “atrocious.” The President has fallen prey to an “American-Zionist conspiracy” to weaken Sri Lanka, he said.
Striking a different note, former Minister Dilan Perera pointed out that the President has criticized the United National Party (UNP) also in his speech. “Perhaps Sirisena and Rajapaksa are working to a common anti-UNP agenda,” he said.