Sri Lankan president’s party decides to stay in unity government

SB Dissanayake

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday ended days of political uncertainty in the country, saying it would continue to be a part of the unity government to push for “major changes” within the government.

SLFP Parliamentarian and Minister of Social Empowerment, S.B. Dissanayake said the SLFP decided to remain in the government and end the uncertainty over the future of SLFP and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) unity government.

He said the SLFP had held extensive talks with President Sirisena on Monday at the Presidential Secretariat and the party had vowed to stay with the president and support his decisions.

“We decided to make a massive change within the government. We will remain with our decision to make those changes and do what is necessary,” Dissanayake told reporters after meeting the president.

“We will not leave the unity government,” he added.

The future of Sri Lanka’s unity government was uncertain when UNP and SLFP were defeated in a local government election held on Feb. 10.

Since the two parties’ defeat, several SLFP ministers had asked for the resignation of the prime minister and urged the president to break the unity government and form a SLFP-led government.

UNP ministers had also called on the prime minister to quit the unity government and form a UNP led government instead.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, however at a media briefing held last week said the UNP would not quit the unity government and he would continue as the prime minister according to the Sri Lankan constitution.

At the Feb. 10 local government polls, former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s newly formed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party, also known as Sri Lanka People’s Front. achieved a landslide victory by winning 239 councils out of 340.

The UNP won 41 councils while the SLFP won 10.