Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday assumed charge as prime minister, local news portal Ada Derana reported. On Friday, President Maithripala Sirisena had appointed Rajapaksa prime minister after sacking incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Rajapaksa assumed the duties at the prime minister’s secretariat, PTI quoted unidentified members of his Sri Lanka People’s Party as saying. A few Cabinet ministers may be sworn in later in the day, party officials said.
On Sunday, Rajapaksa called for snap parliamentary elections to overcome the island nation’s “economic and political crisis”. “The primary objective of the political party leaders and parliamentarians who have joined me is to immediately hold the provincial council elections that had been postponed continuously,” he said. Rajapaksa said a parliamentary election should be called to “give the people the opportunity to vote for a programme that will bring the country out of the encompassing economic, political and social crisis”.
He also invited all political parties represented in the Parliament to join his administration, according to the Daily Mirror. The former president said the aim is to set up an interim government that will protect the human rights of all citizens, protect the independence of the judiciary and establish law and order in the country.
Rajapaksa’s demand for snap elections came even as Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Sunday recognised Ranil Wickremesinghe as the prime minister. Jayasuriya also questioned President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to sack Wickremesinghe and appoint Rajapakasa to the post.
Sri Lanka has been facing a constitutional crisis since Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance withdrew from the coalition government with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party. Last week, Sirisena had accused the 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 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, but is also seven short of the majority.
US calls on Sirisena to reconvene Parliament
The United States Department of State on Sunday called on Sri Lanka’s president to “immediately reconvene parliament” to quell the constitutional crisis caused by Wickremesinghe’s sacking, AFP reported.
“We urge all sides to refrain from intimidation and violence,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We call on the president, in consultation with the Speaker, to immediately reconvene Parliament and allow the democratically-elected representatives of the Sri Lankan people to fulfil their responsibility to affirm who will lead their government.”