COLOMBO: Seven months after he was made de jure Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the main constituent of the opposition United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA), Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena became its de facto head on Friday.
The group headed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was reduced to a rump when the SLFP Central Committee unanimously decided to give Sirisena full authority to decide on the nature of the party’s participation in the National Government; who all will take ministerial portfolios and who will be the Leader of the Opposition.
In deference to Sirisena‘s wish, the Central Committee warned SLFP MPs that anyone defying its diktat will be liable to disciplinary action.
It is expected that at least 70 of the 80 SLFP MPs in the 95 member UPFA group in parliament will fall in line. But what Rajapaksa, who is an SLFP man and MP from Kurunegala District, will do, is yet to be seen. Since his die hard supporters, many of whom represent small parties in the UPFA, have decided to sit in the opposition, Rajapaksa might cast his lot with them.
Meanwhile, to smoothen ruffled feathers and get former Rajapaksa loyalists on board, the Sirisena group withdrew court cases against the two sacked General Secretaries of the SLFP and the UPFA, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Susil Premajayantha respectively.
Their places had already been given to Sirisena loyalists, Duminda Dissanayake ( SLFP) and Dr.Vishwa Warnapala (UPFA), but both Yapa and Premajayantha are to be made cabinet ministers in the National Government to be formed with the United National Front for Good governance (UNFG) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.