The two parties are currently engaged in talks to merge in order to mount a joint challenge to the UNP nominee for the President.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday sacked five senior legislators from his Sri Lanka Freedom Party for breaching party discipline by collaborating and “promoting” the rival factions ahead of the presidential elections scheduled later this year. The sacking has come amid ambiguity in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) over naming of its candidate for the presidential election which must be held before December 8. It is not clear if the SLFP would field its own candidate to challenge Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party presidential nominee Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. “They have been promoting other parties which cannot be allowed,” SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera said.
At least three of them have joined the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s SLPP, the new party which has mounted a serious challenge to Sirisena’s SLFP, while the other two have allied with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), Jayasekera said. Sirisena who defeated Rajapaksa in 2015 as the then common opposition challenger has seen a majority of his SLFP members joining Rajapaksa’s new party. Sirisena, however, has not called for any action against Mahinda Rajapaksa who has taken over the SLPP leadership while still being a member of the SLFP. The two parties are currently engaged in talks to merge in order to mount a joint challenge to the UNP nominee for the President. In the UNP, a serious difference has surfaced with the campaign launched by its deputy leader Sajith Premadasa to become its candidate.
On Saturday, a new development took place when a group of Buddhist monks urged Wickremesinghe to name the senior party leader and Speaker in Parliament Karu Jayasuriya as the candidate. Premadasa was to hold talks with the Tamil and Muslim minority allies of the UNP in order to secure their support for his candidacy. Wickremesinghe appears increasingly unwilling to nominate Premadasa and may opt for Jayasuriya as the party backed candidate of its broader alliance DNF, analysts say.