Sirisena’s neutrality denies him role in SLPP-led alliance

Maithripala Sirisena

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President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to stay “neutral” at November 16 presidential election may deny him any office in the Sri Lanka People’s Alliance which is fielding former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as its candidate.

This is whilst President Sirisena’s own party – the Sri Lanka Freedom Party – is extending unconditional support to the SLPA.

A second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), due to be signed between the parent body of the SLPA, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), and the SLFP, provides for the office of a deputy leader. Such a person is also empowered to nominate a deputy secretary and serve in the executive committee, the policy making body.

The MoU signing, due for today, has been delayed since the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, where the SLFP planned a convention, is not available. It will be wrapped up well ahead of the election, an SLPP source said yesterday.

The source said Rohana Laxman Piyadasa, who has been named as acting chairman of the SLFP, was billed to sign the MoU together with the SLPP architect and convener Basil Rajapaksa. However, the issue, the source said, is when Maithripala Sirisena chooses to take over SLFP leadership, as planned, after the presidential election.

A formidable section in the SLPP is opposed over his replacement. This is on the grounds that he had invited the SLPA leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, conveyed his support and later backed out without any intimation saying he would remain “neutral.” Such a development threatens to isolate President Sirisena from his own party.

The first MoU, signed last Thursday between the SLFP and the SLPP paved the way for the former joining the SLPA. The terms worked out relate to the next parliamentary elections where the SLFP will be entitled to 31 percent of the candidates. This is in addition to Provincial Council and local elections. The same ratio will apply to the Cabinet of Ministers and those on the National List.

(Source: The Sunday Times)