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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Monday underlined the need to keep the unity government intact despite reports of revolt within a section of the ruling coalition. Sri Lanka is receiving international financial assistance as a result of the decision taken by the two main political parties to form a unity government, the Prime Minister said while addressing a gathering in Colombo.
Wickremesinghe’s the United National Party (UNP) and President Maithripala Sirisena’s the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) have been together in a government of national unity since September of 2015. The arrangement is due to end by December this year.
“We formed the national government neither to favour the UNP nor the SLFP. Both parties will gain from coming together to solve major issues,” Wickremesinghe said, adding that it was important for the unity government to continue. The Prime Minister said that the unity government has been able to control the debt from the past and take the country forward.
A section within the SLFP who are bitterly opposed to an alliance with the UNP wants to quit the government. It was speculated that some 18 SLFP members in the government would leave to become independent MPs in Parliament.
A group of SLFP members who are backers of the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, including himself, are sitting in the opposition already calling themselves the Joint Opposition.
“Due to our old rivalry it is easy to say we can’t work together,” Wickremesinghe said. Wickremesinghe’s UNP alone has 106 seats in parliament still short of the 113 required for simple majority. But with Sirisena’s SLFP supporting the government enjoys two thirds in the 225-member assembly.
Sirisena who was sacked from the SLFP when he challenged Rajapaksa as the common opposition candidate in the 2015 presidential election was handed the party leadership by Rajapaksa after his defeat. Rajapaksa backers want Sirisen to sack Wickremesinghe and form SLFP’s own government which he is not constitutionally empowered to do before March 2020.