Colombo: Sri Lanka`s main party of Buddhist monks announced Tuesday it was quitting President Mahinda Rajapakse`s government in protest at his failure to loosen his grip on power before a re-election bid.
The JHU, or National Heritage Party, made the move on Rajapakse`s 69th birthday and ahead of presidential elections widely tipped for January, two years ahead of schedule.
"This (quitting) is not a challenge from an enemy force," JHU leader Omalpe Sobitha told reporters. "This is a birthday gift to the president to correct his ways. This is the advice of a friend given according to the teachings of the Buddha."
Rajapakse came to power in 2005 promising to revert to a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. But he secured a second term in 2010 and rewrote the constitution, removing the two-term limit on the top job and giving himself more powers over the administration.
The JHU supported Rajapakse`s election in 2005 and backed his moves to end a decades-long separatist war by crushing Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009. The JHU had hoped he would reform the constitution after winning re-election in 2010.
Sobitha said Rajapakse had failed to ensure the independence of the judiciary and restore rule of law and end corruption since the military crushed the rebels.
"I have today given my letter of resignation to the president," JHU legislator and technology minister Champika Ranawaka told reporters.
"Our other elected members too have given up their responsibilities. We will no longer be subject to the whip of the UPFA (United People`s Freedom Alliance) government."
The JHU threatened action against Rajapakse earlier this month unless he moved on reforms.
The JHU has just three seats in the 225-member parliament, but the monks are considered influential among the country`s majority Buddhist community.
Government ministers have said the president will seek election for a third term in January, attempting to secure another mandate before his party`s popularity falls further.
Rajapakse`s UPFA vote share plummeted at local elections in September, suffering its worst performance since he first came to power nine years ago.