Sri Lankan Parliament’s Speaker on October 28 recognised Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s Prime Minister, saying he has “obtained a mandate to secure democracy and good governance”, in a major relief to the embattled UNP leader who was sacked by President Maithripala Sirisena in a dramatic move late on October 26.
In a letter to Mr. Sirisena, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya questioned the President’s decision to suspend Parliament till November 16, saying it will have “serious and undesirable” consequences on the country.
He asked the President to restore Mr. Wickremesinghe’s privileges as the leader of the government who has “obtained a mandate to secure democracy and good governance”.
Mr. Sirisena on October 26 sacked Mr. Wickremesinghe and appointed former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister. A day after, Mr. Sirisena suspended Parliament till November 16 after Mr. Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority.
The President also withdrew Mr. Wickremesinghe’s personal security and vehicles in order to accord them to his 72-year-old successor, who staged a dramatic political comeback on October 26.
Mr. Jayasuriya 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 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,” Mr. Jayasuriya said.
The Speaker also questioned Mr. Sirisena’s decision to withdraw security to Mr. Wickremesinghe.
Mr. Jayasuriya reminded Mr. Sirisena of certain forcible takeovers of state institutions since Mr. Rajapaksa was named Mr. Wickremesinghe’s successor by the President.
Mr. Sirisena’s decision to suspend the parliament until November 16 was seen as a an effort to coerce legislators into supporting Mr. Rajapaksa.
One such crossover was reported on October 28 as Wadivel Suresh, an UNP legislator of Indian Tamil-origin from the central tea plantations, pledged support to Mr. Rajapaksa. He was the second UNP legislator to back Mr. Rajapaksa since October 26 night.
Analysts said Mr. Rajapaksa now has 99 seats, 14 short of the 113 required. Mr. Wickremesinghe’s UNP now stands at 105, just eight short of the majority.
Two parties, the Marxist JVP with their six seats and the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with their 16 are to stay neutral.
The TNA sources said Mr. Rajapaksa had spoken to the TNA leader R Sampanthan over telephone and asked for their support.
TNA is reportedly considering two issues; which party should be capable of bringing in a new Constitution to the country addressing Tamil political grievances and which government would deliver the accountability mechanisms outlined in the UN human rights council resolutions on Sri Lanka’s human rights accountability during the final phase of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Mr. Wickremesinghe, who termed his shock dismissal as illegal and unconstitutional, remained at the Prime Minister’s official residence-cum-office of Temple Trees.
Mr. Sirisena and Mr. 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.
Sri Lanka nearly faced economic sanctions from the West over Mr. Rajapaksa’s brutal military crackdown on the banned 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.
Mr. Rajapaksa and his family were facing several cases of corruption and financial irregularities.