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Sri Lanka unity govt. falls, Rajapaksa sworn in as PM

I am still PM, says Ranil after President Sirisena joins hands with former rival

In a sudden move, President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday pulled his faction out of Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition and within hours appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. The startling developments led to the collapse of the country’s first national unity government, with Mr. Sirisena joining hands once again with the leader he ousted in 2015.

‘Unconstitutional’

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), however, maintained that Mr. Rajapaksa’s appointment was “illegal and unconstitutional.”

“I am still the Prime Minister. This is an unconstitutional swearing-in,” Mr. Wickremesinghe told a local television channel.

“The appointment of @PresRajapaksa as the Prime Minister is unconstitutional & illegal. This is an anti democratic coup. #lka,” Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera, a senior UNP figure, tweeted.

In a letter to Mr. Wickremesinghe, Mr. Sirisena said he was using his powers to remove him from the post of Prime Minister with immediate effect. Mr. Wickremesinghe, in turn, in a letter to the President said he was the constitutionally appointed Prime Minister, and commanded "the confidence" of parliament. Both leaders cited Article 42(4) of Sri Lanka's Constitution to declare contradictory positions.

Open tensions

The growing friction between Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe within the country’s uneasy coalition was no secret. Mr. Sirisena’s reported outburst at a Cabinet meeting last week — over an alleged assassination plot targeting him and the development of a container terminal in Colombo — further exposed the discord.

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