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SL Oppn not to join Rajapaksa government

The United National Party will not be joining the government despite an MoU on cooperation signed recently, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 20:17 IST

The opposition United National Party (UNP) will not be joining the Mahinda Rajapaksa government despite the MoU on cooperation signed recently.

This was clear from the speech made by the UNP chief and Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) here on Thursday.

Wickremesinghe said that the UNP would "remain a strong opposition" while supporting President Rajapaksa's efforts to bring peace to the country.

"The MoU is not for a coalition. As it stands today, there is an understanding to collaborate, with one party being in the government and the other in the opposition," he said.

The UNP, he clarified, had retained the right to criticise the government and even vote against it in parliament if the need arose.

Blow to JVP's ambitions

With the UNP saying that it will continue to be in the opposition, the Marxist and Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna's (JVP's) bid to become the official opposition in parliament fails.

The JVP, which has been veering away from Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on vital issues relating to the peace process and the economy, is dreaming of becoming the official opposition and exploiting any anti-government sentiment that may arise in the months and years to come and becoming the ruling party.

As of now, the JVP has 39 MPs in a parliament of 225 members and is the third largest party.

Dissension in UNP

Wickremesinghe's decision to sit in the opposition, will, however, create dissension within the UNP.

Many top leaders of the UNP had been dreaming of becoming cabinet ministers under the MOU with the ruling SLFP.

Some of them might defect and become ministers, but too many crossovers could result in the UNP's becoming hostile to the Rajapaksa government.

The UNP might defeat the government on the budget or other important matters in parliament.

If the UNP is alienated, the government may have to patch up with the JVP. But that will mean a set back to the peace process, a sharpening of the conflict with the LTTE, and the alienation of the international community which has set much store by the peace process.

First Published: Oct 27, 2006 16:26 IST