United National Party Chairman Kabir Hashim and two Non-Cabinet Ministers face expulsion next week whilst a partnership between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) may not materialise, according to new political developments this week.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sunday Times learns, has decided to move against three loyalists of top minister and deputy leader Sajith Premadasa, for ‘violating party discipline.’ This is ahead of the UNP’s Working Committee meeting at which the party’s presidential candidate will be picked.
Mr. Hashim now holds two sets of portfolios – Highways and Road Development cum Petroleum Resources Development. The others who face expulsion are Sujeeva Senasinghe, Non Cabinet Minister of Science, Technology and Research and Ajith P. Perera, Non Cabinet Minister of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology.
UNP sources said yesterday there was “overwhelming evidence” against Mr Hashim for “blatantly violating” the party constitution and for “conspiring” against the leader. The other two non Cabinet rank ministers faced a disciplinary inquiry by the party General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.
The tough stance by Premier Wickremesinghe, these sources said, was a precursor to his already declared intention to contest this year’s presidential election. He told his close loyalists last Wednesday he would summon a meeting of the Working Committee soon to decide on the matter.
For the SLPP led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the Leader of the Opposition, new issues have cropped up with the SLFP. Despite the conclusion of an informal deal for a partnership, endorsed by their leaders President Sirisena and Mr Rajapaksa, the SLFP had been buying time placing difficult demands, the SLPP leadership charges.
One such demand, placed by SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera, was to insist that the SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Defence Secretary, should contest under the Chair symbol. The SLPP feels “difficult demands” were made to buy time and alleges that the SLFP has been shifting positions every now and then.