Published: Sat, October 27, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Wickremesinghe says he will remain PM, despite Rajapaksa being sworn

Wickremesinghe says he will remain PM, despite Rajapaksa being sworn

Hours after sacking his former ally, President Maithripala Sirisena issued gazettes formalising the dramatic move, and the installation of Rajapakse as the new prime minister. "Mahinda Rajapaksa's appointment is unconstitutional".

Parliamentary officials said the president had suspended the 225-member parliament until November 16. "I have the majority and I remain as the prime minister and I will function as the prime minister", he said. Responding to Sirisena in writing, Wickremesinghe said he is still the "constitutionally appointed Prime Minister" of Sri Lanka.

The crisis, which follows similar turmoil in the neighbouring Maldives, has stirred global concern. Only time will tell what long-term damage this does to Sri Lanka's constitutional fabric.

Sirisena, who was health minister under Rajapaksa, and Wickremesinghe joined forces to defeat Rajapaksa in elections in 2014, accusing him of corruption and undemocratic rule. They resumed broadcasting Saturday and were supporting Rajapakse.

UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera said that Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had been informed of UPFA's decision to take the appropriate further action. In 2004, just two and a half years into a six-year term, the then president sacked him and called snap elections.

Underlining the risk of chaos in the islands, where the government had been under pressure over a misfiring economy, Media and Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said on Twitter that the appointment of Rajapaksa as prime minister was a violation of the constitution, which was amended in 2015 to curtail the powers of the president.

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The president's United People's Freedom Alliance party had earlier Friday quit the coalition that had governed with Wickremesinghe's party.

Since his rushed swearing in, Rajapakse is yet to announce the formation of a Cabinet - which under the Constitution is automatically dissolved when a prime minister is removed.

Some 200 supporters, some carrying photographs of him, gathered outside Rajapaksa's home late on Friday to congratulate him.

Members of Wickremesinghe's party must "respect democracy, respect the country and respect the law", the ex-president said through a loudhailer from a balcony. Sirisena loyalists backed a no-confidence motion in April against the prime minister, who survived after a majority of legislators voted to support his coalition government.

His regime refused to acknowledge war-era abuses, and bitter divisions between minority Tamils and majority Sinhalese persist.

Rights groups say tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the campaign, but Rajapakse has refused to acknowledge any abuses in the civil war.

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