Sri Lanka's new ruling coalition today formed the government in a southeastern province after five members of Mahinda Rajapaksa's alliance switched their allegiance to the new dispensation, in yet another blow to the besieged former president.
Harin Fernando, of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP), was today sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Uva province after he proved a majority in the council, said provincial Governor Nanda Mathew.
The province was earlier controlled by Rajapksa's United People's Freedom Allianc (UPFA).
In the 34-member Uva council, Fernando has secured the support of 18 members, said Mathew.
Five members from the UPFA have given affidavits in support of Fernando.
In the September election, the UNP had won only 13 seats compared to UPFA's 19. That time, Fernando could not become the chief minister of the province.
The remaining two seats were won by the Marxist JVP.
The sitting chief minister of the Uva -- one of the nine provinces in the country --- Shasheendra Rajapaksa is the nephew of the former president.
The switching of allegiance of five UPFA council members is yet another blow to Rajapaksa, who lost his presidency to President Maithripala Sirisena in the January 8 polls.
Rajapaksa, 69, the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, is also battling to retain his leadership. Scores of his partymen have switched allegiance to Sirisena, who until November was his health minister and SLFP's general secretary.
Rajapaksa, who ruled for 10 years from 2005, held snap elections to win a record third term on the strength of his popularity with the majority Sinhala community for defeating the LTTE.
Instead, Sirisena secured an overwhelming support of the Tamils and Muslim minorities while cashing in on the anti-incumbency sentiment among a section of the Sinhala majority.