Colombo, Dec 29 (PTI) Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena kicked off his campaign for local council elections in February here today, on the back of what he termed his “international victories”.Also Read - T20 World Cup: India to Bowl or Bat First vs Pakistan? Ravi Shastri Gives A Clear Answer

Addressing his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) candidates for polls to all 341 local councils set for February 10, he said he was able to gain international support during his three-year reign as president. Also Read - T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli Reveals India's Strategy Ahead of Pakistan Game, Says Pretty Sorted

“When Russia banned our exports my personal letter to President Vladimir Putin enabled to get the ban lifted within a few days,” Sirisena said. Also Read - Shocking, Unscientific Methodology: Govt Reacts on India's Rank Slip in Global Hunger Index Report

“When we faced the current fertiliser shortage I called the Pakistan prime minister. Just a few minutes before I came here I received his message agreeing to send 40,000 metric tons.

“When I visited Qatar recently, even before I could get into my return flight an investment delegation had left Qatar for Sri Lanka,” Sirisena said.

Sirisena, who was elected president with support from SLFP’s old rival United National Party (UNP), has faced criticism from the rival SLFP faction of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa loyalists have posed a serious challenge to Sirisena by forming their own party.

They alleged that Sirisena had postponed the local council elections by nearly three years for fear of seeing the SLFP relegated to third position behind them and the UNP.

His decision to campaign vigorously shows that he is keen to silence his critics who claim that he had betrayed SLFP’s interests by forming a government with the UNP.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.