COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police Monday arrested a leading dissident within President Maithripala Sirisena’s party, deepening political tensions on the island after the head of state suspended parliament, reports AFP.
Mahindananda Aluthgamage, a former sports minister, was held over 39 million rupees ($260,000) that were allegedly misappropriated in 2014, police said in a statement.
He was accused of spending government money to buy sports goods, which were handed out in a bid to get support for former president Mahinda Rajapakse ahead of a national election. The items included 14,000 boards for the popular South Asian game of carrom.
Aluthgamage is a key figure in a faction that opposes Sirisena within his socialist Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).The party has been in an uneasy coalition with the right-wing United National Party of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe since 2015.
There was no immediate comment from Aluthgamage’s faction which is led by Rajapakse who was in power for nearly a decade till he was defeated by Sirisena in 2015.
The former sports minister’s arrest is seen by senior party members as a blow to the Rajapakse-faction which controls a majority of SLFP MPs.