Key Rajapaksa ally quits Lanka's ruling coalition

Key Rajapaksa ally quits Lanka's ruling coalition

Key Rajapaksa ally quits Lanka's ruling coalition

In a blow to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a key ally pulled out of the ruling coalition today in protest against his refusal to give up virtually unlimited powers, a day before he was likely to announce snap presidential polls.

Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) or National Heritage Party said they were quitting the Rajapaksa-led United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition government.

"We have resigned today from the ministerial positions we have held," said JHU's theoretician Champika Ranawaka, who was Minister of Technology and Research in Rajapaksa's cabinet.

"We will not hold any responsibility in future under the UPFA." Also quitting his position was JHU's key member Udaya Gammanpila, who held a ministerial position in the ruling coalition controlled Western Provincial Council.

The duo were supposed to join fellow JHU member and parliamentarian, Buddhist Monk Athuraliye Rathana. His movement for a better tomorrow is the said to be the reason behind JHU's exit.

Rathana's movement had urged Rajapaksa to abolish the system of executive president before he could call snap polls. He has moved the 19th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution aimed at greater democratic reforms.

Rathana vowed to defeat Rajapaksa unless he implemented the reforms before the presidential election. Ranawaka, the JHU guru said they were still open to talks with the government as they would remain independent.

Analysts believe, JHU would support a unity candidate the joint-opposition has been trying to field against the President. In 2005, JHU's support was key to Rajapaksa's narrow victory in his first attempt to become the President.

The JHU delivered a sizeable chunk of the Buddhist majority vote enabling him to score a wafer thin victory over the rival Ranil Wickremesinghe. Rajapaksa now seeks his third consecutive term having lifted the two term bar to contest.

Last week, the highest court endorsed Rajapaksa's attempt to seek a third term declaring that there was no impediment to him calling a snap election and trying a third term.