Sri Lanka in political turmoil after prime minister Wickremesinghe sacked

Saul Bowman
October 27, 2018

A private television network loyal to Rajapakse televised him being sworn in as the new Prime Minister, replacing Wickremesinghe.

The move came after Wickremesinghe, who says he remains prime minister, urged the speaker to convene the parliament on Sunday to prove he still retained his parliamentary majority.

"The appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister is unconstitutional and illegal".

Wickremesinghe's views were echoed by Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera, who in a tweet said: "This is an anti democratic coup".

A gazette has also been issued stating Ranil Wickremesinghe has been removed from the Post of Prime Minister as per powers vested with the President.

Sirisena's office announced the surprise decision moments after he sacked incumbent premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, despite opponents saying he had no power to do so under the constitution. President Sirisena's party withdrew from the ruling coalition after simmering tensions between him and Wickremesinghe. "The only way that can be changed is through a no confidence motion or if I resign", Mr Wickremesinghe said referring to the 19th amendment to the Constitution. "I have the majority and I remain as the prime minister and I will function as the prime minister", he said.

Sirisena, along with some UPFA lawmakers including from his centre-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), formed a coalition government with Wickremesinghe's UNP soon after Sirisena unexpectedly defeated former ally Rajapaksa in a presidential election in January 2015.

The UNP, however, suffered one defection after Mr. Rajapaksa was sworn in with Ananda Aluthgamage meeting the former president and extending him support.

Within minutes of the statement, Rajapaksa was invited by Sirisena to take oath as the Prime Minister. The pair were reported to have clashed in cabinet last week over government plans to lease a container terminal to neighbouring India.

The move ends a more than 3-year-old coalition government that was formed by two bitterly opposed political parties on a promise to tackle corruption and wipe out alleged financial irregularities under the previous government, led by Rajapaksa.

The main allegation against Wickremesinghe involved his appointment of a Singaporean as the central bank governor who is now accused of leaking inside information to benefit his son-in-law in a treasury bond sale. Since then, party rivalries have been simmering within the government.

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