Sirisena purge Rajapaksa loyalists from SLFP

Colombo, Aug 17 (PTI) President Maithripala Sirisena todaysacked nine loyalist of his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa fromSri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in a major reshuffle that wouldlikely mute any opposition from within the unity government. The purge affected by Sirisena claimed the posts of ninefrontline backers of Rajapaksa as SLFP organisers. He appointed new electoral and district organisers duringa meeting held at the President’s official residence here,party officials said. The move is expected to consolidate his influnece over theparty. Both Sirisena and Rajapaksa have been longtime membersof the party, but since the former president was booted out ofoffice in 2015, a rivalry has been renewed between the two. Sirisena succeeded Rajapaksa as leader of SLFP after heunexpectedly beat the latter in the January 2015 election. Before the election, Sirisena was Rajapaksa’s healthminister. He challenged Rajapaksa in the snap election calledby the former strongman with support from then oppositionUnited National Party (UNP). Since winning the presidency, Sirisena and the UNP of thecurrent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe banded together toform the unity government. However, Rajapaksa loyalists were believed to have formedopposition to the government with support from a section ofSLFP members. The Rajapaksa faction have carried out several campaignsagainst the Sirisena government including last month’sfive-day protest march. Sirisena has accused the Rajapaksa clan of trying todivide and weaken SLFP. The action to remove Rajapaksa backers is being seen as amove by Sirisena to consolidate his position as the partyleader ahead of next months 65th anniversary convention of theparty. PTI CORR ABH AKJABH

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