COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have threatened to immediately dissolve parliament and order fresh elections in a bid to rein in the opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which is trying to bring back Mahinda Rajapaksa to power, using its position as the single largest party in parliament.
Sirisena, who is also Chairman of the SLFP, told the SLFP parliamentary group before the interim budget was put to vote, that if the SLFP MPs do not vote for the budget, which contains key elements of his 100-day program, he will dissolve parliament and order fresh elections. He also threatened to resign from the Presidency, thereby depriving the SLFP of the only lever it has to control the government run by the rival United National Party (UNP).
Likewise, faced with a No-Confidence Motion against Public Order Minister John Amaratunga, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has threatened to recommend dissolution and fresh elections.
Sirisena told SLFP MPs very plainly, that in the coming parliamentary elections, the UNP and he would ask the voters to re-affirm their support for the 100 day program which they had endorsed in the January 8 Presidential election which he had successfully fought with the backing of the UNP. In the elections, the SLFP would be portrayed as a spoiler of a publicly endorsed and long overdue constitutional and economic reforms.
Sirisena’s threat worked. The budget was passed almost unanimously. The SLFP fell in line because it has no leader other than Sirisena, whose leadership it had accepted after the Presidential election, though he had defected from the party to become the Joint Opposition Candidate. Furthermore, more than 55 MPs will need to be in parliament till April 22 to be entitled to pension. Opposition MPs in this category may defect to the government.
However, outside parliament, some Rajapaksa loyalists are campaigning for his political revival. A public meeting is to be held by them in Colombo on February 18, which Rajapaksa is expected to grace. It is organized by the Sinhalese nationalist Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and National Freedom Front (NFF), along with some Left parties.