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Rajapaksa threatens to dissolve House

SL Freedom Party founded by sacked cabinet minister Mangala Samaraweera, President threatens to dissolve parliament and seek a fresh mandate.

world Updated: Jun 23, 2007 16:32 IST
PK Balachandran

Faced with the prospect of more MPs defecting to the breakaway Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana Wing) founded by sacked cabinet minister Mangala Samaraweera, President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday threatened to dissolve parliament and seek a fresh mandate.

This threat came after Samaraweera said that 15 to 20 MPs from the ruling SLFP might join the SLFP (MW).

According to media reports, Rajapaksa told a special meeting of ministers and senior SLFP leaders, that the situation was "worsening day by day" with the breakaway group under Samaraweera trying to form a common opposition front and begin agitations.

Rajapaksa said that if the threat from the combined opposition mounted, he might have no option but to dissolve parliament and seek a fresh mandate.

That Rajapaksa cannot take his party men for granted any more was evident in the way SLFP MPs reacted to Samaraweera's vituperative attack on the Rajapaksa regime and the "Rajapaksa Brothers" in parliament earlier this week. No SLFP MP rose to contradict Samaraweera or defend the government.

This suggested the possibility that if Samaraweera's SLFP(MW) grew in influence, some SLFP MPs and even Ministers might be tempted to defect to it.

Political climate unfavourable

The political atmosphere in Sri Lanka is becoming unfavourable for Rajapaksa with the opposition United National Party (UNP) making serious charges against the government and publicly proposing an alliance with the SLFP(MW).

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga is coming back to the country after a long self exile. And lastly, the Marixist-Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is threatening to launch strikes on various popular issues.

The spiralling cost of living has alienated the urban population. In the national capital of Colombo, unbridled high-level corruption and abductions for extortions are other major issues.

The Supreme Court, which had previously given judgements to the liking of President Rajapaksa, has begun to give anti-government judgements in critical cases like the telecom sales case.

The Island newspaper reported on Saturday, that the opposition UNP was hoping to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the defection of 17 of its MPs to the government side in January this year, and get a determination in its favour. If the court accepts the UNP's plea, Rajapaksa could lose the numbers game in parliament. He has already lost the support of the JVP.

The government has alienated the West and also India, and there is a fear that by year end, the donor countries, barring Japan, may cut aid citing rising human rights violations and unending military actions.

Victory in war critical

However, Rajapaksa hopes that the capture of the Thoppigala jungles from the LTTE, and with it, the complete liberation of the Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts in the East, will boost his "nationalistic" credentials and help him keep the nationalistic rural majority with him. A military victory in the East will also silence his urban critics.

Rajapaksa hopes to pacify his critics by taking corrective economic measures. The contours of these measures will be presented as a document to the SLFP's 17 th. General Convention on July 21.

The state-owned Daily News quoted the General Secretary of the SLFP, Maithripala Sirisena, as saying that the new proposals would cover a wide range of national problems, with special reference to agriculture, the mainstay of the rural economy.