Published: Sat, October 27, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

India’s stand on Sri Lanka turmoil: Weigh options and watch

India’s stand on Sri Lanka turmoil: Weigh options and watch

Chaminda Gamage, a spokesman for the parliamentary speaker, confirmed that President Maithripala Sirisena had suspended parliament until November 16.

Reports have said supporters of former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse stormed several state media institutions and intimidated staff after he was sworn in as the new prime minister on Friday night.

Sri Lanka's president suspended parliament on Saturday even as the prime minister he fired the previous day claimed he has majority support, adding to a growing political crisis in the South Asian island nation.

A large gathering of politicians and the supporters of the United People's Freedom Alliance and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party got together in front of the Presidential Secretariat to convey their wishes to the newly appointed Prime Minister.

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. Sirisena, who was Rajapaksa's minister of health, broke away from him to contest the presidential elections.

Soon after his 2015 defeat, he blamed it on the minority Tamil community which voted overwhelmingly for Maithripala Sirisena who pledged accountability for alleged war-time atrocities by the military.

Indeed, the whole set of circumstances suggest not the way a change of government ought to occur in a democracy, but the sharp practices associated with a constitutional coup, which is likely to lead to a constitutional crisis.

Rajapakse lost the presidency in January 2015 and the subsequent parliamentary elections in August 2015. Since the constitution after the Nineteenth Amendment specifies these ways in which the prime minister ceases to hold office, and has impliedly removed the previous power of the president to remove the prime minister at will, it follows that there are no other ways in which this can happen.

But he also was criticised for failing to allow an investigation into allegations of war crimes by the military.

His return to power as prime minister could signal that Sri Lanka is sliding back to an era of violence against political opponents, critics and journalists, observers said.

"The appointment of Rajapakse as the prime minister is unconstitutional and illegal".

Within minutes of the statement, Rajapaksa was invited by Sirisena to take oath as the Prime Minister.

Traditionally, Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party has espoused left-of-centre views and opposed economic liberalisation, while Wickremesinghe's United National Party leans right and has championed reforms to open up Sri Lanka's economy. In April, Wickremesinghe successfully defeated a no trust motion in parliament engineered by Sirisena with backing from Rajapaksa.

The sudden political development ends an over three-year-old coalition government that was formed by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on a promise to combat corruption and financial irregularities.

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