Sri Lanka arrests estranged ruling party MP amid deepening rift

March 17, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lankan police arrested on Saturday a government legislator who had accused his own ruling party of striking a secret deal with Tamil Tiger rebels, an official said. . Lawmaker Sripathi Sooriarachchi was arrested and taken before a magistrate who remanded him to judicial custody for two weeks, a police official said.

Sooriarachchi was accused of misusing a state-owned car just before he was fired as ports development minister on February 9 by President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Since being stripped of his ministerial position, the lawmaker has accused Rajapakse and his campaign managers of cutting a deal with Tamil Tiger rebels to block votes for his opposition presidential challenger in the 2005 election.

Rajapakse narrowly won the vote.

Tiger guerrillas enforced a ban on minority Tamils voting and analysts believe that the move probably cost opposition presidential candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe the election.

Wickremesinghe was friendly toward the Tamil minority. However, the Tigers had accused the opposition leader of trying to lay a “peace trap” to corner the guerrillas