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Lanka dissidents head for isolation

The dissidents are heading for isolation given the lack of support for their cause, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2007 18:33 IST

Dissidents in the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) seem to be heading for isolation, given the manifest lack of support for their cause, especially within the party.

The three dissidents, Mangala Samaraweera, Anura Bandaranaike and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi, who were sacked from the Council of Ministers by President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week, have been unable to hold a press conference till date.

Bandaranaike, who last week called Rajapaksa's regime a "carnival of clowns" and his government "hellish", has now gone into his shell. Samaraweera complained that he was unable to meet his followers because the police would not allow people to enter Stanmore Crescent, where his house is, on the grounds that it is a High Security Zone.

The withdrawal of ministerial security since the sack had created fear among the dissidents. Sooriyarachchi said that the former ministers would soon petition the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission about this because all three were known to be in the LTTE's hit list.

The dissidents were expecting eight SLFP MPs to opt out of the Rajapaksa camp and join them; and the United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) to express their support.

But nothing of this kind has happened so far. While SLFP MPs are quiet, the General Secretary of the party, Maithripala Sirisena, debunked Samaraweera's claims about his contribution to the SLFP.

The JVP's Vijitha Herath told the Tamil daily Sudar Oli that his party would not support any move by the dissidents to link up with the UNP and the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

While interested parties were still trying for a patch up, it became quite clear on Tuesday that President Rajapaksa would not take the dissidents back, at least immediately.

"Taking them back now will send a wrong signal to others on the borderline of defiance," said a long time observer of Rajapaksa's political career.

Sources say that of the three, Samaraweera is considered to be particularly undesirable. He has gone too far in his opposition to Rajapaksa. It is learnt that the President also sees him as a potential threat in his own political constituency - Sri Lanka's deep south.

But given Rajapaksa's current popularity as a "Peoples' President" and as a "liberator of the East" from the clutches of the LTTE, Samaraweera has an uphill task ahead.

First Published: Feb 13, 2007 16:26 IST