Sri Lanka: Mahinda Rajapaksa blames president for breakdown of party unity talks
Colombo: Former Sri Lankan leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who leads a rival faction of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), has blamed his successor—President Maithripala Sirisena—for the breakdown of unity talks between the two sides.
The two factions of the SLFP have held talks to try and unite to contest local council elections, now likely to be held in mid-February. “The efforts failed because they (the Sirisena faction) did not want to leave the government. We cannot agree to any alliance with the UNP,” Rajapaksa said on Monday, addressing a political rally of his new party—Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)—in the central hill town of Badulla.
The SLPP is the brainchild of his powerful brother Basil, who was the economic development minister during Rajapaksa’s 10-year presidency. Rajapaksa had been reluctant to publicly associate with SLPP until Monday. Rajapaksa backers in the SLPP want the Sirisena-led SLFP to leave the current unity government with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).
The UNP and SLFP formed the unity government in 2015 after Rajapaksa lost to Sirisena in the presidential election. Rajapaksa, who had sacked Sirisena from the party after he emerged as the common opposition challenger, had passed on the SLFP leadership to the incumbent president following his stunning victory.