Sri Lanka President reads riot act to Rajapaksa loyalists
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena marked the first anniversary of his national unity government by firing dire warnings to detractors and ordering a purge of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
President Sirisena threatened to reveal secrets of his rivals within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party if they tried to form a new breakaway political party.
"They are threatening to form a new political party. Let’s see them do it," the President said in a hard-hitting speech at Matara on the first anniversary of the unity government he formed with Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP.
"What I have kept as secrets for all these years will be revealed if they try to form a new party." he said in a clear reference to his predecessor, as well as Rajapaksa loyalists within the SLFP.
"I will make sure they will remain in the wilderness…"
"Those who destroyed the country, those who destroyed democracy, those who terrorised the people through their ‘white van’ culture, those who robbed billions and crowned themselves as champions of waste and corruption will not be allowed to take back power in this country," Sirisena said.
He said the unity administration with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s United National Party will continue its full five-year term.
He said his bete noire Rajapaksa called a snap election in 2014 (for vote to be held on January 8, 2015) because he was unable to face the impending economic and political crisis.
"There are those who accuse me of being unpatriotic and pandering to the West, but that is a description that fits them," Sirisena said.
He said he was able to win over Western nations and soften the tone of the UN Human Rights Council against Sri Lanka by turning a new leaf in the country and committing to democracy and upholding human rights.
On the eve of the first anniversary, he had ordered a major clean up of the SLFP party organisation, sacking some key figures such as former ministers Keheliya Rambukwella and Pavithra Wanniarachchi
Political sources said the president as the leader of the SLFP was emboldened after the "paada yathra" (long march) of the Rajapaksa faction of the SLFP failed to muster the huge crowds they had anticipated.
"It was a tactical mistake on the part of Rajapaksa loyalists," an SLFP insider said. "The less-than-impressive march prompted the President to take action against dissidents who have proved powerless to challenge him."
"His speech in Matara could set the tone for decisive action against Rajapaksa and his supporters."
With many of their stalwarts losing their posts as electoral organisers, the Matara district SLFP leader and strong Rajapaksa campaigner, Dallas Allahapperuma, announced Friday that he was quitting his party position.
Sirisena is also taking the internal party battle to Rajapaksa’s Kurunegala district next month by organising a party convention in the district.
Rajapaksa has already said he will not attend, citing a previously arranged overseas visit.
Sirisena has spared some of the Rajapaksa loyalists, notably Johnston Fernando from the Kurunegala district, probably in a move to ensure that he will not be able to cause trouble at the SLFP convention in that district next month.
Some party insiders were also speculating that Fernando as well as another Rajapaksa loyalist, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, who is facing several investigations for money laundering, could be switching sides.
With local elections slated for early next year, Sirisena appears to be moving towards taking full control of the party. Sources close to Sirisena said he may even move to sack some of the dissidents from parliament ahead of the local elections.
As for his unity administration with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, both leaders have said they hoped the arrangement will continue for the full term of the current parliament, which ends by August 2020. (COLOMBO, August 19, 2016)