ECONOMYNEXT, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena sacked the two of his senior most party secretaries and suspended their membership in a further blow to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s prime ministerial hopes.
Sirisena ordered the sacking of UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha and his SLFP counterpart Anura Priyadharshana Yapa and fired letters to the Elections Commissioner saying that they can no longer represent the party.
The move is seen as an attempt to stall either of them nominating Rajapaksa loyalists as members of parliament from the UPFA national list after Monday’s elections.
The replacements as general secretaries of the UPFA and SLFP, Prof. Wishwa Warnapala and Duminda Dissanayake, went to the Colombo district court today and secured a restraining order against their predecessors.
The judge, Harsha Sethunga fixed a hearing for August 28.
In another development, the sacked two secretaries have been given marching orders to clear their offices at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party headquarters where earlier in the day Rajapaksa suffered another setback.
Sirisena suggesting seven alternate names as potential prime ministerial candidates caused further rifts within the UPFA ranks hours before the end of campaigning.
Rajapaksa loyalists wanted to bring the seven men Sirisena nominated as potential PM material and get them to say that they did not want the job and instead to give it to Rajapaksa.
The seven men are Nimal Siripala de Silva, John Seneviratne, Chamal Rajapaksa, Athadua Seneviratne, A. H. M. Fowzie, Susil Premajayantha and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.
However, only three turned up and they are John Seneviratne, Athauda Seneviratne and Susil Premajayantha, a man who was to get the sack a few hours later.
John Seneviratne said he was speaking on behalf of all seven and declared that neither of them wanted the PM job and that it should go to Mahinda Rajapaksa should their party win.
Even before John Seneviratne could finish his sentence, Athauda Seneviratne withdrew from the press conference and beat a hasty retreat, clearly uncomfortable with John speaking for him.
The organisers had also arranged a letter signed by the seven men declaring their support to Rajapaksa to be the next prime minister should their party win, but there were only six names.
The name of Fowzie had been dropped. The letter was withdrawn and no fresh letter was issued as Fowzie told reporters that he refused to sign the letter as he agreed with Sirisena that he had prime ministerial potential.
Party insiders say that Fowzie had been one of those opposed to granting nominations to Rajapaksa to contest Monday’s elections.
Rajapaksa loyalists put on a brave front saying that Sirisena’s bombshell yesterday was actually a blessing in disguise because according to them the president had suggested that they could reach 113 seats needed to win.
However, the UPFA may have shot itself in the foot by firing a letter to the elections commissioner asking him to stop any publication, discussion on Sirisena’s letter which they say is detrimental to their campaign.
Indepndent political observers said that Sirisena’s action was not illegal, but could be considered immoral.
"Sirisena is also behaving very much like an intoxicated Rajapaksa," a political observer said. "Two wrongs won’t make one right."