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Bid for truce in Mahinda's party

The SLFP is trying hard to bring about a truce between the president and the dissidents, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 12, 2007 17:55 IST

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) insiders and interested persons outside the party are trying hard to bring about a truce between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the three dissidents he had ejected from his Council of Ministers last week creating a major political crisis.

Reports suggest that Rajapaksa and the dissidents are themselves considering a patch up.

Both sides may opt to lie low for some time to allow the overheated political atmosphere to cool down.

Corporate tycoon Harry Jayawardene, a man of  wide influence cutting across political barriers, is reportedly among many outsiders who have joined SLFP men in efforts to bring about a patch up, so that the government does not get destablised.

The Mahanayakes or the heads of the top Buddhist monastic organisations in the country, have appealed to the two warring groups to bury the hatchet; keep the country's attention focussed on the promotion of the peoples' welfare; and prevent the LTTE from taking advantage of the situation.

Many SLFP MPs are worried that the government may be defeated in parliament and a fresh parliamentary may be forced on them if the dissident group were to enlarge its support within the party and align with the opposition UNP, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), and the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

The media had said that that 11 dissenting SLFP MPs, along with 43 UNP, 38 JVP and 22 TNA MPs could defeat the government in the 225 member parliament.

Indicating a desire to patch up, the President had told an SLFP forum on Saturday, that while he had good reasons to sack the dissident ministers, he would take them back if they recanted.

Reportedly, he had also said that he could err too, and that differences could be thrashed out in a dialogue.

The media had in fact reported that Rajapaksa had tried to contact the ring leader of the revolt, Mangala Samaraweera, over the phone, but the latter had not responded.

To let the atmosphere cool, Rajapaksa left for the Maldives last week end, and indications are that he would not take any further action in this matter until after his return from a visit to China at the end of this month or early March.

Meanwhile, on the dissidents' side, there are indications that Anura Bandaranaike might recant, as he is said to be worried about his security which was scaled down after he was sacked.

At any rate, Bandaranaike was not the primary target of the President.

The real target had been Samaraweera, a potential rival in the President's  own constituency in the deep south of the island.

Samaraweera has the support of the powerful Durawa caste; is a very good political organiser; and has a strong link with the JVP.