Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday said he sacked his former political ally Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister because of his arrogance, PTI reported. This was Sirisena’s first comment since he pulled off a political coup.
On Friday, he replaced Wickremesinghe with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Wickremesinghe, who Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya recognised as the prime minister on Sunday, has said he will not resign. Wickremesinghe called Sirisena’s sacking and Rajapaksa’s swearing-in “illegal and unconstitutional”.
“I must make it very clear that the new appointment [of Mahinda Rajapaksa] was made on expert legal advice in strict accordance with the Constitution,” Sirisena said on Sunday even as one person died in related violence.
Wickremesinghe’s political conduct since his victory in 2015 was “unbecoming”, Sirisena claimed in an address to the nation on Sunday. “He appeared to treat Sri Lanka’s future as a joy ride for a coterie of people around him who had no sense of the common man’s thinking,” he said. “He completely destroyed the concept of good governance while corruption and waste became rampant. He was making arrogant arbitrary decisions making a mockery of collective responsibility.”
“There was a huge gap in policy agreement between the two of us,” Sirisena said. “I believe the cultural and policy differences between us contributed to this political and economic crisis.”
“I received information that senior policemen who were doing investigations were deliberately avoiding meeting officials of the Attorney-General’s Department,” he alleged. “Having taken into consideration all crisis, the political and economic as well as the assassination plot on me, I was only left with one alternative which was to appoint former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister.”
Wickremesinghe relied too much on foreign investment and this led to local industrialists and businesses being left in the lurch, Sirisena claimed, adding that the former prime minister’s economic council was corrupt, which led to the setting up of National Economic Council. But he “scuttled” its functions, the president alleged.
Sri Lanka has been in the midst of 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 a majority in the 225-member house. Wickremsinghe’s party has 106 seats on its own, however, it is also seven short of the majority.
Sirisena was chosen to be 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.