Colombo: The Sri Lankan government claimed Monday that there was a foreign hand behind the split in the ruling party.
"Former health minister and Sri Lanka Freedom Party general secretary Maithripala Sirisena got involved in an international conspiracy against the government," Xinhua reported citing Sri Lanka`s Power and Energy Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi as saying.
Sirisena announced last week that he would contest against President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a joint opposition candidate in the presidential election in January.
Following the announcement, Rajapaksa, as chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, stripped Sirisena from his party membership and ministerial post.
Since then there have been reports that more government members will join the opposition, but Wanniarachchi said that as a cabinet minister, she can give a firm assurance that more Sri Lanka Freedom Party members will not defect.
She said Sirisena had betrayed the party and was being used in an attempt to bring opposition United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe back to power.
Meanwhile, Sirisena made a pledge not to engage in mud-slinging during his election campaign.
Speaking to reporters after visiting a temple on the outskirts of Colombo, Sirisena said that it has never been his style to speak in anger or hate. "I will not engage in hate or anger. I will not abuse anyone. I will not attack anyone`s character. I will campaign in a responsible manner," he said.