COLOMBO: While President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is heading for a split between the Sirseana and Rajapaksa groups, the United National Party (UNP), headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has decided to break off its alliance with Sirisena and contest the coming parliamentary elections separately.
Moves by a six-man committee to bring about a rapprochement between Sirisena and Rajapaksa failed on Wednesday, when Sirisena told the panel that he would not give Rajapaksa the party ticket to contest the parliamentary elections, nor would he make him an nominated MP. Sirisena categorically ruled out naming Rajapaksa or anybody as the Prime Ministerial candidate.
Sirisena’s argument was that Rajapaksa had had a full political innings, including two terms as President, a term as Prime Minister and a term as Leader of the Opposition. He had also been an MP since the mid 1970s.
Though the Rajapaksa group is saying that further discussions are on the cards, the President’s categorical statements on Rajapaksa render any further unity talks untenable, political observers say.
The SLFP and its umbrella organisation, the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) are thus heading for a split.
On Friday, the UNP decided to go it alone in the coming parliamentary elections. It considers the present political situation as being conducive for a decisive UNP victory. The main opposition groups , the SLFP and the UPFA, are split, while the UNP is devoid of internal dissensions.
Like the Sirisena faction, the UNP can claim credit for defeating the dictatorial Rajapaksa at the January 8 Presidential election; amending the constitution to water down the massive powers of the Executive Presidency; freeing the media; and promoting reconciliation between the majority Sinhalese, on the one hand, and the minority Tamils and Muslims, on the other.