Scholar Buddhist monk appointed Sri Lanka's ruling SLPP party's Chairman

The ruling party suffered defections when a large number of members chose to remain independent in Parliament

Prof Uthurawala Dhammarathana
Prof Uthurawala Dhammarathana


The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party announced on Saturday that Prof Uthurawala Dhammarathana, a Buddhist monk and scholar will be its new Chairman, replacing former senior minister GL Peiris.

"Prof Uthurawala Dhammarathana was nominated to the position of party chairman," SLPP general secretary Sagara Kariyawasam told reporters after the party's General Meeting early Saturday.

The meeting was the first since the powerful Rajapaksa family-led SLPP ran into chaos last year when the island nation was struck by a catastrophic economic and humanitarian crisis sparked by years of mismanagement and the raging pandemic.

The ruling party also suffered defections when a large number of members chose to remain independent in Parliament.

Peiris, its founder chair and former foreign minister, now sits in opposition. He was sacked by the party in March from his post, the Colombo Gazette news portal reported.

"With GL Peiris no longer in the party, we had to appoint someone to replace him," Kariyawasam said, adding that Dhammarathana had long been an associate of the party.

Sri Lanka's Buddhist clergy holds power and influence on the country's politics.

The SLPP also announced that Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Gopal Baglay, called on party leader Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday to discuss Indo-Lanka relations and the economic assistance New Delhi extended to the crisis-struck island nation.

India provided nearly USD 4 billion worth of assistance to Sri Lanka after the island nation was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves, sparking a major political and humanitarian crisis.

In May last year, the party leader, then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was forced to resign after months-long public protests over the ruling party's bungling in governance since 2019 struck the country.

Two months later, his younger brother, then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was also forced to resign and flee the country after massive demonstrations surrounded his offices.

The SLPP party voted for Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the United National Party (UNP), as the president in July last year. Wickremesinghe replaced Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the island's president and currently heads a cabinet of SLPP ministers.

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