Colombo, Aug 10 (PTI) Sri Lankan parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya today rejected a plea by the loyalists of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa to recognise their group as the main Opposition, replacing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led by R Sampanthan.
In a written request to the Speaker, eight members of parliament of the Rajapaksha-backed "Joint Opposition" sought recognition of their group as the largest single opposition in parliament and appoint MP Dinesh Gunawardena as the Leader of the Opposition.
The Rajapaksa loyalists argued that they have the support of 70 MPs as opposed to TNA, which has only 16 legislators.
However, the Speaker countered the argument saying that Rajapaksa and his group had been elected to parliament as members of the (UPFA). The UPFA, whose leader is President Maithripala Sirisena, also acts as part of the unity government in the island nation.
“I have to inform the House that in terms of the constitution and standing orders I have no power to change the leader of the opposition,” Jayasuriya said.
He further said there was no ground for the “Joint Opposition” to claim the leader of the opposition position while remaining in a party that was a constituent on the government.
The Rajapaksa group charged that Jayasuriya was denying their group the due democratic recognition.
The 2015 parliamentary elections saw UPFA undergo a split with loyalists of the Sirisena faction, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), forming a coalition government with the United National Party (UNP).
The coalition led to a great degree of discontent amongst many SLFP members who went on to form the Joint Opposition alongside other parties from the UPFA.
The Rajapaksa group has now formed their own party, Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP), which won the February’s local election. Since the election victory, more members of the UPFA have joined them bolstering their number.
Sirisena's faction is now left with just 26 members. PTI CORR/SCY SCY