Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday sacked his deputy Tourism Minister for allegedly defying the party leadership, the second top Minister removed from the government in less than a month.
The President’s office said Arundika Fernando has been “dismissed from his portfolio with immediate effect.”
Mr. Fernando, a member of Mr. Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, had claimed that seven SLFP members would leave the government soon over corruption allegations against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).
The SLFP runs the unity government in coalition with the UNP, though some SLFP members back a faction of the party that supports former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Reacting to his removal, Mr. Fernando said: “If anyone thought that my sacking would deter others who plan to leave government, that will be a mistake. I will continue to remain in the party.”
A broad working arrangement between the SLFP and the UNP to run the government is set to end in December. But Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe last week announced the government’s economic vision until 2020, indicating they had no intention of ending the alliance.
Mr. Sirisena fired his then Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse on August 23 for criticising the government over its decision to sell a majority of shares in a sea port to China.
Mr. Sirisena was elected as President in January 2015 largely on the support of the UNP. Mr. Rajapaksa had sacked Mr. Sirisena from the SLFP for challenging him in the presidential election.
But after Mr. Sirisena’s victory, Mr. Rajapaksa handed the party reigns to the former. This caused a division within the SLFP, with supporters of Mr. Rajapaksa forming a joint Opposition.