Divisions erupt within Sri Lankan government
20 October 2018
Media reports that Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told his cabinet on Tuesday that “Indian intelligence” was plotting to assassinate him have created a political furore in Colombo and New Delhi.
Sirisena has denied making the remarks. The response to the alleged comments, however, has revealed deepening conflicts between the coalition government’s ruling partners—Sirisena’s faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).
The controversy over Sirisena’s alleged remarks comes as the government is increasingly wracked by mounting economic problems and social opposition to its widely unpopular austerity measures. Above all, the government’s deepening crisis is bound up with the geopolitical rivalry between India and the US on the one hand and China on the other.
Wickremesinghe’s UNP holds the majority of MPs in the ruling coalition. Sirisena has the allegiance of only two dozen SLFP MPs. The majority of the SLFP’s parliamentary representatives have lined up with Sirisena’s arch rival, former president Mahinda Rajapakse. Two dozen SLFP MPs quit the government last month, expressing support for Rajapakse.
The Hindu, a prominent Indian newspaper, carried a report on Wednesday alleging that Sirisena told a cabinet meeting the previous day that “Indian intelligence” was “trying to kill him.” He reportedly said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “may not be aware of the plan.” The Sri Lankan media covered the claims.
Nervous that the reports would cause frictions with New Delhi, Sirisena telephoned Modi on Wednesday to deny that he had made the remarks. India, along with the US, is…