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Sri Lanka President expels Rajapaksa loyalists from key body

President Mahinda Rajapaksa

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena has sacked five members from his Freedom Party’s central committee in a bid to consolidate his position ahead of plans to adopt the 19th amendment to the Constitution, curtailing executive powers of the President.

The Central Committee has notified former ministers Bandula Gunawardena, SM Chandrasena, TB Ekanayake, Rohitha Abeygunawardena and Salinda Dissanayake that they have been removed from the Committee.

“I have received a letter signed by the party leader (Sirisena) sacking me from the Central Committee. But I will continue to stand by for what is right,” Gunawardena, the education minister under the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, said.

All the four members were key players in the move to bring back Rajapaksa and have attended his public rallies.

Ekanayake had also been sharply critical of Sirisena’s effort to form a national unity government by bringing together the two Sinhala majority parties, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP and Sirisena’s SLFP.

Addressing a gathering in Polonnaruwa, his north central home base yesterday, Sirisena said he was duty bound to implement the reforms he pledged in the run up to the January 9 election.

“I want to implement all pledges – the constitutional reform to reduce presidential powers, to introduce a new electoral system and and revive the public service,” Sirisena said, adding that he was keen to end family rule, in a clear reference to Rajapaksa’s government when he had almost all of his brothers in key state positions.

“I have three children, I could obtain party tickets for them from any party. But I will not do that. I do not want family in politics,” Sirisena said.

His purge of Rajapaksa loyalists from party central committee came ahead of next week’s expected parliamentary debate to adopt the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

The proposed amendment could see the restoration of independent commissions and restoration of powers to the judiciary, apart from stripping the president of some of his executive powers while bringing back a two-term presidential limit.

Rajapaksa had removed the two-term limit on the presidency that allowed him to contest for a third-term. He had also accumulated more powers over the judiciary and public servants during his decade-long regime.

The bill would be voted upon in the parliament on April 20 and the house may be dissolved after that.

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