Rajapaksa to resign, pave the way for Ranil’s return

Security men stand guard near the Supreme Court in Colombo on Friday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to vacate the office of Prime Minister — which he controversially held for seven weeks — paving the way for the return of ousted leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The move signals an end to the political crisis.

Mr. Wickremesinghe will be sworn in as Prime Minister on Sunday, political sources told The Hindu.

According to Mr. Rajapaksa’s son and legislator Namal Rajapaksa, Mr. [Mahinda] Rajapaksa will “resign” on Saturday “to ensure stability of the nation.” He said their new party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or Sri Lanka People’s Front), would form a coalition with President Maithripala Sirisena. The latter had abruptly installed his former rival as Prime Minister on October 26, replacing Mr. Wickremesinghe. His snap decision plunged Sri Lanka into unprecedented political turmoil.


Courts stand firm

Mr. Rajapaksa’s decision to “step down” came after the Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay an earlier appeal court order restraining him and his purported Cabinet from functioning in office. In another setback to Mr. Sirisena, the court on Thursday ruled that his November 9 move dissolving Parliament and calling for snap polls was illegal.

The political front led by Mr. Wickremesinghe, with the support of other Opposition MPs resisting Mr. Rajapaksa’s disputed appointment, showed a majority in the House several times since October 26, but both Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Rajapaksa refused to recognise the trust votes.

Even as the manoeuvres in Parliament proved futile, the MPs took the legal route, filing cases challenging the President and Mr. Rajapaksa.

The judiciary’s key rulings in the past few weeks reining-in Mr. Sirisena’s executive powers and restraining Mr. Rajapaksa’s functioning as PM, have the paved way for the end of the crisis that left the country without a legitimate government for weeks.

All the same, it remains unclear how the differences between Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe might play out when the “new government” takes charge this weekend. While some sources said the President’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is unlikely to be part of the new government, others suggested Mr. Sirisena might reconsider the position.

Days after Mr. Rajapaksa was appointed Prime Minister, several SLFP lawmakers — including Mr. Rajapaksa himself — took up membership in the new Rajapaksa-backed outfit, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or Sri Lanka People’s Front).

According to senior political scientist Jayadeva Uyangoda, the “ultimate casualties” of the crisis since October 26 are Sirisena himself and the SLFP he leads. Prof. Uyangoda said Mr. Sirisena, who helms the SLFP rump, has no independent power base now, with his party having been virtually absorbed by the pro-Rajapaksa SLPP.

“Sirisena has proved to be the country's poorest political leader when it comes to political strategising,” Prof. Uyangoda told The Hindu.

The article has been edited to correct the spelling of Rajapaksa.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 9:23:29 AM |

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