US and India intervene to avert Sri Lankan government collapse
17 February 2018
The US ambassador to Sri Lanka and his Indian counterpart this week publicly stepped in to halt a planned breakup of the National Unity Government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after its heavy losses at local council elections held on February 10.
The Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPJP), the largest party in the parliamentary opposition, led by former President Mahinda Rajapakse, won 249 councils out of the total of 341 island-wide. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) secured only 41 councils, while Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) gained only 10.
After the election debacle, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe began blaming each other for the defeat. At their instigation, followers of the two parties publicly announced the termination of the unity agreement.
The US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Atul Keshap, hurriedly met Sirisena and Wickremesinghe separately on February 13 reportedly to advise them to defuse the turmoil in the government and continue with it.
On the same day, in a move clearly coordinated with Washington, the Indian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, Saranjit Singh Sandhu, met with Sirisena and Wickremesinghe to deliver a similar message.
The immediate response of both the government parties was one of servile adherence to the “advice” coming from their masters. The next day, the Daily Mirror reported that the United National Front (UNF) parliamentary group, led by Wickremesinghe, had decided to “continue the unity government with some changes of portfolios and strategies.”
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