ECONOMYNEXT – Loyalists of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa staged an emergency meeting at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) headquarters Wednesday despite President Maithripala Sirisena vetoing it.
The SLFP-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) defied Sirisena and held an “excited committee” meeting of those shaken by the President’s vituperative invective on Tuesday evening.
Even before Rajapaksa’s prime ministerial campaign could be launched on Friday, Sirisena made it clear that the once defeated Rajapaksa will not be considered as a prime minister candidate even in the unlikely event of a UPFA victory.
Rajapaksa loyalists, including Wimal Weerawansa, met the former leader at his Mirihana home this morning to map out a counter offensive with proposals to make a clean break from the UPFA.
However, considering that they have already submitted their nominations from the UPFA, it will not be practical to quit the party, but they will have to campaign as a separate rebel group within the UPFA.
“We are working on several alternatives,” a source close to Rajapaksa said. “It is true we suffered a setback, but we are hopeful of making a come back. Forcibly taking the party leadership and ousting the President is one option.”
Rajapaksa loyalists made him the leader of an ‘election committee’ of the UPFA, a position that does not exist with the coalition. However, they sat under a photograph of party leader Sirisena who has made it clear that their decisions were not binding and could lead to disciplinary action against them.
Sirisena said he reluctantly gave nominations to Rajapaksa to avoid a split in the party, his speech last evening has deepened the divide and widened the rift making it easier for the UNP to face the August 17 election.