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Sri Lanka Freedom Party elects justice minister Rajapakshe as chairman after Sirisena resigns

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Colombo, May 12 (PTI) Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was elected as the chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Sunday after former president Maithripala Sirisena formally resigned from the chairmanship amid reports of heightened tensions between rival factions.

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The Executive Committee of the Maithripala faction of the SLFP met on Sunday and unanimously voted to appoint 65-year-old Rajapakshe as the new Chairman of the party.

Nimal Siripala de Silva, an incumbent minister, is the acting chair of the rival faction of the party.

De Silva faction’s secretary in a letter to the Sirisena faction termed Sunday's purported executive committee meeting "illegal" as Sirisena’s party chairmanship is still under a court restraining order.

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His successor Rajapakshe’s attempt to vacate a restraining order on himself was refused by the court last week.

The police early April locked the party headquarters after the factional dispute as allegations of removing party files triggered a police investigation.

On Sunday, security was significantly beefed up at the SLFP headquarters.

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The SLFP, which contested the last parliamentary election held in 2020 under the SLPP banner, has 14 members in the 225-member Assembly. Some of them are members of the Wickremesinghe government.

The SLFP split comes as political parties are gearing up to face a presidential election between September 17 and October 16, with the next parliamentary polls falling due by mid-next year.

Sirisena recently said that Rajapakshe would be his party's candidate in the presidential election. PTI CORR ZH ZH ZH

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