Ranil Wickremesinghe wins confidence vote

Sri Lankan President Sirisena has said he will not work with him

Updated - December 12, 2018 10:19 pm IST

Published - December 12, 2018 06:28 pm IST - COLOMBO

Sri Lanka's Members of Parliament greet ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during a parliament session in Colombo on December 12, 2018.

Sri Lanka's Members of Parliament greet ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during a parliament session in Colombo on December 12, 2018.

A majority of Sri Lankan parliamentarians — including 14 from the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) — on Wednesday voted for ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as their preferred candidate to serve in the post.

The motion moved by Sajith Premadasa, deputy leader of Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), sought to demonstrate the support that the deposed leader has in the House.

President stubborn

It is unlikely that the trust vote — passed with the support of 117 MPs in the 225-member House — will help end the island’s political impasse, especially coming a week after President Maithripala Sirisena declared that he would not appoint Mr. Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, “even if all 225 legislators” back him.

Mr. Sirisena’s refusal to work with Mr. Wickremesinghe is at the heart of the political crisis gripping Sri Lanka for seven weeks now. In a widely-contested decision on October 26, Mr. Sirisena installed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minster, abruptly replacing Mr. Wickremesinghe.

Mr. Rajapaksa has since lost two confidence votes in Parliament, but has refused to accept them citing “breach of parliamentary procedure.”

The bitter power struggle, which Mr. Sirisena maintains is “nothing personal”, has left the country without a legitimate government for weeks.

A majority of MPs have challenged his actions as executive president, in the legislature and in courts.

Later this week, the Supreme Court may deliver a verdict on President Sirisena’s controversial dissolution of parliament that petitioners have called “illegal.”

Addressing the House on Wednesday, Mr. Wickremesinghe said he was committed to a political solution without dividing the country. For the TNA, the main Opposition party for the last three-and-a-half years, the promise of a political solution to the national question remains central to its support to the deposed premier. Amid criticism of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration’s failure to fully implement several pledges made to the Tamil minority, the TNA has a challenging task of justifying its position to its constituency in the north and east.

New Constitution

The current political upheaval has cast serious doubt on the future of a new Constitution that was being drafted, but a Rajapaksa comeback in turn sparks old fears of heightened military surveillance and post-war intimidation that his regime is accused of.

Following Wednesday’s vote, in which the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) abstained, Mr. Wickremesinghe pledged to strengthen the country’s provincial councils. He also vowed to abolish the Executive Presidency, a demand that the JVP has been pushing for some time.

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