Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena-led SLFP has suspended an MP over "derogatory" comments about the party leadership as it vowed to initiate a disciplinary whip against members who back Mahinda Rajapaksa, prompting a sharp reaction from the former strongman today.
At the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) central committee meeting last night, the party decided to take disciplinary action against members who back Rajapaksa, Sirisena loyalist and deputy minister of finance Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said.
Accordingly, Sanath Nishantha, a member of parliament backing Rajapaksa, was suspended of his membership for making comments "derogatory" of Sirisena over the national television.
"I do not accept Sirisena's leadership," Nishantha had said in response to a question by a party member on the same. Action would also be taken against several members of the party's local councillors for defying party discipline, said Abeywardena.
Rajapaksa hit back at the move, saying: "MP Nishantha is a very popular member who had come up in the ranks due to his hard work with the people. This is no action to unite the party. A party should not try to chase people out," he told reporters on the eve of a private visit to South Korea.
Sirisena, who succeeded Rajapaksa as the leader of the SLFP, now in unity government with its archrival United National Party (UNP) of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has been struggling to get the Rajapaksa loyalists under his leadership.
The Rajapaksa group, who call themselves the joint opposition with three other fringe opposition parties, have taken Sirisena head on, challenging both him and Wickremesinghe.
Last week, the Rajapaksa loyalists held an opposition protest march which lasted over five days. They were charged of bringing disrepute to the party by hooting at party headquarters while on the way to the rally. So, more Rajapaksa loyalists would be under fire soon, party sources said.