COLOMBO: Growing disaffection in his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) appears to be behind Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s sudden announcement that he is going to take concrete steps to implement two of his main pledges in the run up to the January 8 Presidential election, namely, abolition of the Executive Presidency and institution of a new electoral system.
The President said on Tuesday that he would present a paper to the cabinet on Wednesday giving his proposal to abolish the EP and usher in a parliamentary form of government and to introduce a constitutional amendment to partially re-introduce the First Past the Post System (FPPS) in elections.
Sirisena has suddenly woken up to the fact that he had done nothing to implement these pledges since assuming office 10 months ago. He has now woken up to the fact that these pledges were the bases of the “National Government” formed after the August 17 parliamentary elections. It was because of these pledges that the SLFP abandoned Mahinda Rajapaksa and flocked to Sirisena.
The reason why Sirisena is waking up to this omission is that the SLFP is dissatisfied with his leadership. SLFP leaders and cadre, who had lorded over the political and administrative system from 1995 to 2014, resent playing second fiddle to the UNP in the National Government. Sirisena appears to be ineffective as President and SLFP leader.
Further, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is short on delivery. Ministers are pulling in different directions.Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who led his 9 year regime upfront, is shining in contrast.
Recently, top SLFP leader Nimal Sripala de Silva fired the first shot of a possible SLFP rebellion. He said that false social media propaganda had led to Rajapaksa’s defeat and that it was time the country got an SLFP government. Rajapaksa loyalists in the SLFP have decided to fight the March 2016 local bodies’ elections as a separate group because they believe that Sirisena is too closely tied up with the UNP to lead the SLFP.
Speculation is that Sirisena may use the need to abolish the Executive Presidency and bring about electoral reforms to postpone the local bodies elections.