Another Sri Lankan minister joins opposition

Colombo, Dec 31 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s Investment Promotion Deputy Minister Faizer Mustapha quit the government Wednesday and pledged to support the opposition candidate in the presidential election.

The deputy minister announced his support for opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena. He also resigned from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) headed by incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“I have made this decision for the sake of a united country,” Mustapha told cheering crowds here as he joined the opposition.
Mustapha belongs to the Muslim minority that makes up about 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 20.4 million.
Earlier, both the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) led by former industry and commerce minister Rishad Bathiudeen and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) led by former justice minister Rauf Hakeem decided to support the opposition candidate.
With the defection of the Muslim parties, the government has lost its two-third majority in parliament.
Sri Lanka’s presidential race has become intense with multiple crossovers from the government to the opposition.
Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), has also decided to support the opposition, putting the bulk of the country’s minorities on the opposition side.
Tamils make up an estimated 12 percent of the minority population.
Rajapaksa was expected to run largely uncontested when he called for snap presidential polls in late November, two years ahead of the end of his second term.
But an unexpected rival appeared when his Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena joined the opposition.
The opposition is united against charges of corruption, nepotism and declining governance. They have pledged to end the controversial executive presidency in 100 days if elected Jan 8.