President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who returned from cyclone hit America, had rapped two senior ministers, considered her confidantes, a day after return. She returned on Tuesday afternoon.
The two politicians, holding key party posts as well as important positions in the UPFA parliamentary group, were ordered to leave when they met her at Janadhipathi Mandiraya, well informed sources said. They played a pivotal role in negotiations with the JVP leading to the hotly disputed Memorandum of Understanding under which the Marxist party promised to back Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse`s presidential bid.
She had been furious over remarks a key Rajapakse loyalist is believed to have made during her absence. The official a key figure in the incumbent Prime Minister`s campaign has been accused of making some disparaging remarks to the effect that Kumaratunga`s time was over.
According to the sources this had been brought to her notice immediately after her return and she is believed to have raised this when she met Rajapakse at the re-launch of Sri Lanka Central Transport Board at a function at Attanagalle on Wednesday. Rajapakse is believed to have denied this accusation. Kumaratunga also summoned the SLFP executive committee today at Janadhipathi Mandiraya. The Island learns that she circulated a letter recently written by UNP Deputy Leader to her pointing out the sharp differences between the SLFP/PA policy and that of the Prime Minister and the JVP. The sources speculated on a major crisis unless the ongoing steps failed to pacify the President.
Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike is likely to be away for at least a few more days. The sources dismissed claims of a possible cabinet reshuffle. `She runs the key ministries and Foreign and Finance Ministries are headed by Anura Bandaranaike and loyalist Sarath Amunugama,` a source said while speculating on the possibility of changes in the state media set-up accused of campaigning vigorously for Rajapakse.