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In Lanka drama, Rajapaksa is new PM

October 27, 2018 05:34 AM

courtesy  HTOCT 27

In Lanka drama, Rajapaksa is new PM
COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as prime minister on Friday, after President Maithripala Sirisena sacked incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe in a surprise move that threatens political turmoil in the Indian Ocean nation.

Rajapaksa’s dramatic political comeback came against the backdrop of growing tensions between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on policy issues. The president has been critical of Wickremesinghe and his policies, especially on economy and security.

The development unfolded after Sirisena’s political front, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), said it would quit the unity government with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).

Rajapaksa’s appointment was confirmed in a statement from the president’s office, but Wickremesinghe told the media he remained the premier and his sacking was unconstitutional.

“I retain the confidence of the House. I am the prime minister and I have the majority,” Wickremesinghe said.

There was no formal reaction from New Delhi but a government official said late on Friday night: “We are aware of the developments and watching the situation closely.” Earlier this week, Wickremesinghe had visited India, where he held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The visit came days after reports of an Indian security agency allegedly plotting to assassinate the Sri Lankan president, which were rejected by Sirisena during a phone call to Modi.

Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have been at loggerheads over the past few months. Rajapaksa, 72, tweeted a photo of himself and Sirisena after the swearing-in ceremony at the presidential secretariat.

But Wickremesinghe maintained that the swearing-in of Rajapaksa was “illegal and unconstitutional”. He added, “I will continue to be the prime minister.” Finance minister Mangala Samaraweera described the developments in a tweet as “an anti-democratic coup”

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