COLOMBO: Showing the ruffled state of affairs within Sri Lanka’s national unity government, President Maithripala Sirisena, who is head of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), has appointed Piyasena Gamage as the State Minister for Law and Order in a bid to reduce the authority of Cabinet Minister Sagala Ratnayaka, who belongs to the United National Party (UNP) and is a close ally of UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
President Sirisena had not consulted Prime Minister Wickremesinghe before appointing Gamage.
The appointment was made in the backdrop of Sirisena’s SLFP criticising Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka for the deterioration of law and order in the island nation.
In another development, members of the current government and loyal to Sirisena have shown readiness to patch up with ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his new party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).
Mid last week, a senior member of President Maithripala Sirisena’s faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and cabinet minister Susil Premajayantha declared that that the local government elections to be held in February could lead to the SLFP going for an alliance with the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s newly floated party the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). The SLPP consists of defectors from the main SLFP. The two factions of the SLFP could unite and jointly make a bid for power after the elections in which the SLFP and SLPP may together get 55% of the votes cast, Premajayantha told the media.
In that case, the warring Sirisena and Rajapaksa factions of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) could come together to oppose the United National Party (UNP), which is currently cohabiting with the Sirisena faction.
In 2015 the UNP-led coalition put up Sirisena as their presidential candidate and upon his victory Sirisena appointed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister.
Analysts believe that if the SLPP, which is popular among the majority Sinhala Buddhist population, does better than the SLFP in the local government polls, Rajapaksa could ask Sirisena to surrender the SLFP reins to him and thus open avenues for his appointment as Prime Minister or someone of his choice.
Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2018