Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Sunday questioned President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to sack his former ally Ranil Wickremesinghe as the prime minister and replace him with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, PTI reported.
Recognising Wickremesinghe as the prime minister, Jayasuriya asked Sirisena to restore his privileges as the leader of the government who has “obtained a mandate to secure democracy and good governance”.
Sri Lanka has been facing a constitutional crisis since Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance withdrew from the coalition government. Last week, Sirisena accused Wickremesinghe’s United National Party of not taking seriously an alleged plot to assassinate him and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
On Saturday, Sirisena suspended Parliament till November 16, purportedly in an effort to buy time so that he and Rajapaksa could prove their majority. Rajapaksa and Sirisena’s parties together have only 95 seats, short of majority in the 225-member house. Wickremsinghe’s party has 106 seats on its own, however, it is also seven short of the majority.
In a letter to Sirisena, the speaker questioned the decision to suspend Parliament and said it would have “serious and undesirable” consequences on Sri Lanka. “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should be one in consultation with the speaker,” Jayasuriya said, also asking why Wickremsinghe’s security was withdrawn.
Sirisena was chosen president in 2015 largely because of votes from Wickremesinghe’s party, ending Rajapaksa’s almost decade-long rule. However, both the ruling parties suffered heavy defeats in the local elections in February. Later, Sirisena aides supported a no-confidence motion against Wickremesinghe, who survived the vote because a majority of legislators backed his government.
Hope democratic values will be respected: India
India on Sunday said it was closely following the political developments in Sri Lanka. This was New Delhi’s first reaction to matter.
“India is closely following the recent political developments in Sri Lanka,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Sunday. “As a democracy and a close friendly neighbour, we hope that democratic values and the constitutional process will be respected. We will continue to extend our developmental assistance to the friendly people of Sri Lanka.”
The United States on Saturday urged political parties in Sri Lanka to abide by the Constitution and refrain from violence. The South and Central Asia Bureau of the US State Department tweeted that it was “following events” in Sri Lanka. United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Asia and Pacific Mark Field said he was following the events in Sri Lanka “closely and with concern”. The UK government also updated its foreign travel advice on Sri Lanka, saying there were “reports of rapid political developments” in the country.
Past abusive practices may make return: Human Rights Watch
The Human Rights Watch on Sunday said Sirisena’s decision to bring Rajapaksa back to power has raised fears that past abusive practices will also make a comeback, according to PTI.
“Rajapaksa’s return to high office without any justice for past crimes raises chilling concerns for human rights in Sri Lanka,” Brad Adams, Asia Director at the Human Rights Watch, said. The current Lankan government’s “failure to bring justice to victims of war crimes under the Rajapaksa regime reopens the door for past abusers to return to their terrible practices”, Adams added.
“The media outlets, rights organisations and victims’ groups...now fear a return to anxiety and fear...It is critical that governments that helped Sri Lanka’s return to a much more rights-respecting government act to ensure those gains are not lost,” Adams said.