Don’t act like Hitler, Ranil Wickremesinghe tells Sri Lankan President Sirisena

All we are saying is follow the Constitution, says the ousted Prime Minister

December 04, 2018 10:09 pm | Updated 10:09 pm IST - COLOMBO

Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at  a news conference in Colombo on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at a news conference in Colombo on Tuesday.

Observing that President Maithripala Sirisena must not take “subjective decisions” pertaining to the Constitution, Sri Lanka’s deposed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday said: “Don’t be like Hitler and other dictators.”

“The Prime Minister is decided by parliamentary majority. The President cannot say this is what I want. All we are saying is follow the Constitution,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said, addressing media persons at Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister, which he continues to occupy since Mr. Sirisena controversially sacked him six weeks ago.

The ousted Premier’s comment seemed a counter to Mr. Sirisena’s repeated assertions that he will not work with Mr. Wickremesinghe “ever”. On Monday evening, the President told lawmakers from Mr. Wickremesinghe’s front that he would not restore him in the office of the PM “even if all 225 members of Parliament” backed him.

On Tuesday, he reiterated the stance at his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) convention, claiming that Mr. Wickremesinghe was “not suitable” for the country.

Deteriorating dynamic

The dynamic between the two leaders, who formed Sri Lanka’s first national unity government in 2015, has been deteriorating over the last three years. Their power struggle culminated in Mr. Sirisena’s dramatic move on October 26, appointing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Premier, in place of incumbent Mr. Wickremesinghe.

Mr. Sirisena’s snap decision, compounded by his lawmakers’ questionable actions in Parliament since, has prolonged the political turmoil for weeks. However, vowing to resolve the crisis in “seven days”, Mr. Sirisena told his supporters on Tuesday: “I have always taken decisions in the best interest of the country and the people.”

Mr. Sirisena’s remarks come a day after he assured Tamil National Alliance MPs that he would take “necessary action” to end the crisis in “24 hours”, in the wake of an interim order at the appeal court, denying Mr. Rajapaksa and his “Ministers” the authority to continue in office.

The Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine has boycotted six motions in the legislature since the unrest began. Unable to muster the required numbers in the House, their MPs have refused to accept the outcome — of a majority voting against Mr. Rajapaksa and his purported government. The camp has also suffered two setbacks in the courts, with the Supreme Court staying Mr. Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament and the appeal court restraining Mr. Rajapaksa.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s lawyers on Tuesday filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, against Monday’s ruling barring him from serving in the office of the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Tuesday resumed hearing the case challenging Mr. Sirisena’s decision to sack Parliament and hold snap polls, which petitioners argued were not within his rights before the current legislature completed four and a half years.

The respondents, who have maintained that his executive powers allowed him to do so, will make their submissions on Wednesday. The apex court is expected to deliver its verdict on Friday or the following week.

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