Sri Lanka government Muslim ally defects to opposition

EconomyNext – Rauf Hakeem, Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister and leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, a political party allied with the government, Sunday announced he was defecting to join the opposition ahead of January 8 presidential polls.

The move is the latest defection to hit President Mahinda Rajapaksa who lost his two-thirds parliamentary majority last week owing to other defections.

The announcement was made at a news conference Sunday morning by SLMC leader Hakeem who said he had resigned as justice minister.

He said he was leaving the government and would support the joint opposition common candidate Maithripala Sirisena, himself a defector from Rajapaksa’s ranks.

Hakeem said his decision was based on concerns over lack of ‘good governance’ in Rajapaksa’s administration.

Sirisena was health minister and general secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party when he quit last month along with other ministers to become the common candidate of the opposition alliance soon after Rajapaksa announced a snap poll two years ahead of schedule.

Opposition parties have closed ranks to prevent Rajapaksa’s unprecedented bid for a third term.

They have said they expect more defections from Rajapaksa’s government ahead of the poll.

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