President Maithripala Sirisena has prorogued parliament for almost a month giving himself more time even as more MPs were due to ditch his faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and strengthen the Joint Opposition (JO) led by his nemesis Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In a surprise move, Sirisena ordered last night that parliament be put off till May 8 when a new session will be called when standing committees will have to be appointed afresh.
The near one-month period also delays a formal break-up of the SLFP in parliament. Rajapaksa has the support of a majority of SLFP legislators in parliament and his JO has been trying to secure the leader of the opposition post in parliament.
The JO will be able to stake a claim for the opposition leader post if the SLFP faction loyal to Rajapaksa formally breaks away from the SLFP, leaving Sirisena with just over 20 MPs in the 225-member assembly.
The failed No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on April 4 further sharpened differences within the SLFP while uniting a fractured United National Party (UNP) led by the premier.
The current Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan hold the position on the strength of the 16 Tamil National Alliance seats he commands. However, should the SLFP officially break up, the Rajapaksa faction will have a majority to claim the Opposition Leader post in parliament.
Such a move to demand an important position in the legislature will now be delayed till the new session of parliament, unless Sirisena is able to use the one-month break to buy over support from his own SLFP legislators. (COLOMBO, April 13, 2018)