COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and the Central Committee of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) torn by serious differences thus far, closed ranks on Thursday to face the emerging challenge from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In a surprise move, the SLFP’s Central Committee unanimously agreed to support the 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, a project close to Sirisena’s heart. Previously, the Central Committee had insisted that the 19th Amendment (which reduces the powers of the Executive President and establishes systems to depoliticise the administration) should go hand in hand with the 20th Amendment to change the electoral system.
This had created a deadlock because President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of the ruling United National Party (UNP) were keen on enacting 19A first, and taking up the more complicated electoral reforms later, after the June parliamentary elections.
Also, while the UNP was keen on early parliamentary elections, the SLFP was not.But the deadlock was resolved when the President assured the SLFP that until the 20th Amendment on electoral reforms is carried out, the present parliament will not be dissolved.
The compromise had become necessary because the SLFP, President Sirisena and the UNP, were all being challenged by a rising sentiment in the island nation in favour of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa has been travelling, addressing meetings and getting a good deal of media attention, while the government is getting a bad press for alleged non-performance. With the SLFP coming rallying round Sirisena, disciplinary action is expected to be taken against those in the party who have identified themselves with Rajapaksa. The SLFP is heading for a split.