Weerakkody insists SLFP must withdraw from the Government

A senior leader of Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Sunday warned the party against continuing in the unity Government, saying the longer it stays in the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the more it would suffer, the Press Trust of India reported.

The remark by SLFP MP Chandima Weerakkody comes amidst a widening rift between the leaders of Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).

“The longer we stay in the Government, the more damaging it will be for the party,” Weerakkody said. “The SLFP must rid itself of this Government,” he added.

Weerakkody and 15 other SLFP leaders had last month walked out of the Government leaving their ministerial jobs in a move to convince Sirisena to end the political marriage with the UNP.

The unity Government of SLFP and UNP was plagued with crisis ever since former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s new party pulled off a stunning victory in February’s local elections, seen as a referendum on the ruling alliance.

On 30 May, Sirisena had accused Wickremesinghe of shielding Rajapaksa, his family and supporters in corruption cases. Several members of the UNP led by Wickremsinghe have been accused in central bank Treasury bond scam of 2015.

The SLFP and the UNP had formed a national unity Government after 2015 elections but both parties have differed on several issues.

Sirisena had twice demanded Wickremesinghe to resign the post of the prime minister. His refusal to do so has also led to a no-trust motion moved against him. A section of the SLFP Sirisena loyalists voted to oust Wickremesinghe. They left the Government after Wickremesinghe won the no-trust vote with strong backing from Tamil and Muslim minorities.

Last week, Sirisena revamped the party hierarchy by replacing key positions and the much-speculated decision to leave the unity Government did not come to pass with the revamp. The major chunk of the SLFP is currently with former strongman Rajapaksa