President Maithripala Sirisena has backtracked on his rhetoric to ditch his senior coalition partner, the United National Party (UNP), and ruled out any rapprochement with the Rajapaksa-faction of his own party.
Addressing a political rally in his home constituency of Polonnaruwa, Sirisena said he knew that Rajapaksa loyalists within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) will not join him to form a government.
Sirisena shocked the UNP last week when he said he was prepared to form an SLFP administration by ditching Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who propelled Sirisena to power at the January 2015 presidential election.
“Although I said I will form a government if all 96 SLFP MP’s stand by my side, I know they (the Rajapaksa-faction) cannot come near me because they do not accept my policies,” Sirisena said.
The Rajapaksa-faction has not officially quit the SLFP, but they have formed the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), or People’s Front, headed by former minister G. L. Peiris as a proxy.
President Sirisena described Peiris’s SLPP as the Sri Lanka Plague Party. “It is a party created to protect rogues. It is a party to protect the corrupt and save those who have robbed the country.”
He said he was inviting “clean politicians” to join him to rebuild the country and move forward.
The tone of his latest speech is in sharp contrast to his gung-ho statements to go it alone after the February 10 local elections.
Ten days ago, he had dropped a bombshell on Wickremesinghe saying he will be taking over economic management responsibilities which had been with the UNP administration for the past three years.
Since making that statement, he has not made any moves to actually take control over the national budget or economic policy.
There has been no reaction from Wickremesinghe or the UNP to Sirisena’s recent cavalier statements.
He also suffered a major setback however, when his attempt to extend his term of office by one more year to 2021 was shot down by the Supreme Court earlier this month.