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Lanka ruling party splits

world Updated: Jun 19, 2007 23:13 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran
Hindustan Times
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President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) split on Tuesday, when two former ministers, Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi, announced that they had formed a new parliamentary group called the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana Wing).

In a letter to the Speaker of parliament, the duo said that they were breaking away because the present government had betrayed the SLFP.

The government had rejected the SLFP's established centrist policies and was taking the country in an extremist direction.

They said that they would sit with the opposition.

The formal inauguration of the SLFP (MW) would take place on June 22 at the Samadhi of the founder of the SLFP, SWRD Bandaranaike, at Horogolla near Colombo.

Samaraweera and Sooriyarachi were sacked from the government by President Mahinda Rajapaksa for raising their voices against the domination of the government by the three Rajapaksa brothers, the "troika" as they dubbed the brothers.

Later, they alleged that Rajapaksa had arranged to give the LTTE, LKR 200 million, to get the latter to support him in the December 2005
Presidential elections.

The LTTE had asked the Tamils to abstain from the election so that the opposition United National Party (UNP) candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe, would not get their votes. Wickremesinghe, was counting on the Tamil vote.

Subsequently, an angry Rajapaksa threw Sooriyarachchi into prison on a charge of illegally retaining a government vehicle after being sacked
from the council of ministers.

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who does not get along with President Rajapaksa, is expected to come back to Sri Lanka from the UK soon, and take the leadership of the SLFP (MW), political observers say.

Samaraweera is a Kumaratunga loyalist. If Kumaratunga casts her lot with Samaraweera, Anura Bandaranaike, Chandrika Kumaratunga's brother and National Heritage Minister, could also join the new outfit, observers added.