Chaos descends on Sri Lanka as president ousts prime minister

Charlene Craig
October 27, 2018

Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena suspended the parliament amid political crisis on Saturday, 27 October, reported news agency AFP.

President Sirisena's decision also plunged the island into an unprecedented constitutional crisis with the Speaker saying he was seeking legal advice and would announce Saturday if he recognises Rajapakse as the new prime minister.

Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed prime minister on Friday after President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed the incumbent in a surprise move that threatens political turmoil in the South Asian country. Last week, Sirisena accused Wickremesinghe's United National Party of not taking seriously an alleged plot to assassinate him and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa. "I can prove majority on the floor of the House", Wickremesinghe said.

Speaking to jubilant supporters outside his Colombo home, Rajapakse called on Wickremesinghe to step down.

However, Wickremesinghe continued to occupy Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister, and insisted in a letter to Sirisena that he was still in office. Sri Lanka almost faced economic sanctions from the West over Rajapakse's brutal military crackdown on the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

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Wickremesingh said at the news conference that parliament should be allowed to resolve the political crisis.

The unity government was formed in 2015 when Sirisena was elected President with Wickremesinghe's support, ending a almost decade-long rule by Rajapaksa.

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.

"Only parliament can show who has the majority", he said.

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

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The United States called on all sides in Sri Lanka to operate within the constitution and refrain from violence.

"When the unity government arrangement ended the cabinet needs to be pruned under 30 members", he said.

The strongman put down the decades-old Tamil Tiger separatist struggle in May 2009 through a military assault that killed up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians, according to rights groups.

However, the excitement among the people for the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government that came into power in what was called a "bloodless revolution" soon began to evaporate.

After the Nineteenth Amendment was enacted in 2015, the prime minister can only cease to hold office by death, resignation, by ceasing to be a member of parliament, or if the government as a whole has lost the confidence of parliament by a defeat on the throne speech, the budget, or a vote of no-confidence (Articles 46 (2) and 48).

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