Despite taking over the reins of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, President Maithripala Sirisena will strive to maintain his independence from partisan politics as he races to fulfill his 100 day pledges.
Sources close to the new President told Colombo Telegraph that while there were fears about the SLFP switching loyalties to President Sirisena and how it would impact the new ruling coalition, he would try to remain above the political fray.
President Sirisena will not participate in political meetings or campaign events and will play a caretaker role during the Parliamentary election scheduled once the process of constitutional reform is completed.
Sources close to President Sirisena said the incumbent was keenly aware of how his ascent to power was engineered by parties like the UNP and the JHU and the other civil society and academic forces that rallied around him.
These stakeholders provided Candidate Sirisena with their party machinery, personnel and expertise to propel him to victory in last week’s election, the sources said. While Candidate Sirisena insisted throughout the campaign that he remained the legitimate General Secretary of the SLFP, the fact was that his rise to power was a result of every other political and civic minded force in Sri Lanka, other than the SLFP, his own party. The exceptions to this rule were the SLFP members who crossed over to support his candidature and joined hands with the UNP and other coalition allies to work for his victory, the sources explained. Sirisena became an attractive candidate to the electorate precisely because he was able to shed his affiliations and bring together different political and non-political forces to work together for his victory, the sources said.
The UNP has expressed fears that President Sirisena taking over the SLFP could make Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe‘s position in the Government vulnerable. However, persons with insight into the new President’s personality insist that Sirisena is not an ungrateful or petty man.
While some remain fearful, other political observers say there is hope for bipartisanship in parliament as there never has been before. The 2015 presidential election was remarkable in that both the UNP and SLFP party activists worked in cooperation during the campaign at the village level, proving that there was space for these two parties to cohabitate in power.