Lankan speaker recognises Wickremesinghe as PM

Lankan speaker recognises Wickremesinghe as PM
Ranil Wickremesinghe

Colombo/New Delhi: Sri Lankan Parliament's Speaker Karu Jayasuriya Sunday recognised Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country's prime minister in a major relief to the embattled UNP leader, who was sacked as the premier by President Maithripala Sirisena.

In a letter to Sirisena, Jayasuriya questioned Sirisena's decision to suspend the House till November 16, saying it will have 'serious and undesirable' consequences on the country.

He asked the president to restore Wickremesinghe's privileges as the leader of the government who has "obtained a mandate to secure democracy and good governance."

The speaker said a prorogation of Parliament should be one in consultation with the speaker.

"In this context continuing the prorogation of parliament until November 16 will have serious and undesirable consequences for our country and I kindly request you to reconsider the same.

"I consider it is my duty to draw your attention to the convention that a prorogation should be one in consultation with the speaker," Jayasuriya said.

Lankan speaker recognises Wickremesinghe as PM
Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe (From left to right)

The speaker also questioned Sirisena's decision to withdraw the security of Wickremesinghe.

Jayasuriya reminded Sirisena of certain forcible takeovers of state institutions since former strongman Rajapaksa was named Wickremesinghe's successor by the president on Friday night.

India closely following the developments

India is closely following the political developments in Sri Lanka where President Maithripala Sirisena appointed his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister after ousting Ranil Wickremesinghe from the post, the External Affairs Ministry said on Sunday.

"India is closely following the recent political developments in Sri Lanka," ministry spokesman Raveeh Kumar said in response to queries from the media.

"As a democracy and a close friendly neighbour, we hope that democratic values and the constitutional process will be respected," Kumar said.

"We will continue to extend our developmental assistance to the friendly people of Sri Lanka."

Political crisis

The Army, police and the special task force have been deployed around the presidential secretariat with soldiers being seen on streets near important installations.

Ousted prime minister Wickremesinghe remained in the prime minister's official residence-cum-office of Temple Trees. The government sources said that they would obtain a court order to evict Wickremesinghe from Temple Trees.

The UNP said Wickremesinghe's ouster was illegal and he would operate from there until the parliament is convened and a floor test established he would still be the prime minister.

The UNP MPs had begun to sign a resolution extending support to Wickremesinghe to prove his parliamentary majority and call for immediate reconvening of parliament after Sirisena suspended it until November 16.

"We would be conducting a protest march on Tuesday in Colombo against the president's unconstitutional action," a UNP legislator said.

The sources, close to Sirisena, said a new Cabinet would be sworn in by Monday which would be restricted under 30 members. The government has sent circulars to all state institutions that the previous Cabinet has now been dissolved.

Sirisena and Wickremesinghe had joined to form a government of national unity in 2015 to bring in constitutional and governance reforms including a new constitution to address the long standing issues if the Tamil minority.

Rajapaksa's return to power ends a more than three-year-old coalition government that was formed by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on a promise to combat corruption and financial irregularities.

Sirisena, who was Rajapaksa's minister of health, broke away from him to contest the presidential elections.

Political analysts said Sirisena's move to install Rajapaksa as the prime minister could lead to a constitutional crisis as the 19th amendment to the Constitution would not allow the sacking of Wickremesinghe as the premier without a majority.

Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine has only 95 seats and is short of a simple majority. Wickremesinghe's UNP has 106 seats on its own with just seven short of the majority.

Early this month, it was reported that Sirisena accused his senior coalition partner the UNP of not taking seriously an alleged conspiracy to assassinate him and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the former top defence ministry bureaucrat and brother of ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Sri Lanka nearly faced economic sanctions from the West over Rajapakse's brutal military crackdown on the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE sought a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Rajapaksa and his family were facing several cases of corruption and financial irregularities.