Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday dissolved the country’s parliament on account of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government’s inability to face a No Confidence Motion which was due to be taken up after the reconvening of parliament on November 14.
The Rajapaksa government had been installed by President Sirisena on October 26 after sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a widely criticized move.
But the Rajapaksa government could not muster the support of a minimum of 113 MPs in a House with a total strength of 225 members to be in power and defeat the No Confidence Motion filed earlier by the Joint Opposition led by Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).
Only eight MPs from the UNP and the United National Front (UNF) crossed over since October 26.
The Muslim and Tamil parties ,which were with the UNP-led Unted National Front (UNF) had issues with Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was President of Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2014 on the ethnic issue. They refused to cross over to the Rajapaksa side.
When this became clear, President Sirisena had two options. One was to ask Rajapaksa to face the Motion of No Confidence and if he failed to make it, appoint Wickremesinghe again as Prime Minister.
The other option was to dissolve parliament and order fresh elections so that the people of Sri Lanka, in whom sovereignty ultimately resides, may decide which party should rule and who should be Prime Minister.
But President Sirisena could not envisage the prospect of re-appointing Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister because he had pledged that he would resign from the Presidency if Wickresinghe had to be sworn-in as the PM.
Sirisena had publicly stated that he differed from Wickremesinghe in all respects from politics and policy to culture. Their inter-personal relations had deteriorated to a point of no-return.
Sirisena had been at been at odds with Wickremesinghe for the past two years. Decisions taken by Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister were being over-turned almost daily by Sirisena as the country’s Executive President. And Wickremesinghe took decisions without consulting the Prime Minister.
Sirisena and Wickremsinghe, never saw eye to eye
The last straw on Sirisena’s back was his belief that Wickremesihnghe was not properly investigating an alleged plot to kill him.
Sirisena also kept complaining that the right wing Wickremesinghe was giving in to the Western powers’ demands on the ethnic, human rights and economic issues to the detriment of the country.
Sirisena was also under tremendous pressure from his colleagues in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to align with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Mahinda Rajapaksa who had broken away from the SLFP after he was defeated by Sirisena in the January 2015 Presidential election.
SLFP leaders and cadres, who could not work with the UNP as part of the SLFP-UNP coalition government, were pressing Sirisena to ditch the UNP and tie up with Rajapaksa who showed his tremendous popularity in the February 2018 local body elections.
Initially, Sirisena hesitated to break the alliance with the UNP because he had come to power with the help of the UNP. He hesitated to sack Wickremesinghe.
But with the sharp deterioration of his relations with Wickremesinghe he yieled to the party men’s demand and sacked Wickremesinghe October 26 and appointed Rajapaksa as Prime Minister in his place.
While the opposition, intellectuals, the media, and the inernational community protested vehemently, saying that the move was undemocratic because Wickremesinghe had majority support in parliament , the President said that he had the power to sack a Prime Minister and ask a new Prime Minister to prove his majority in parliament.
Sirisena also explained to the people why he could not get along with Wickremesinghe and why he desperately needed someone else to be Prime Minister so that government work could be conducted harmoniously.
Sirisena got more flak when he prorogued parliament from October 27 to November 16, apparently to give the new Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa time to garner support from the opposition.
After parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya insisted that parliament should be called immediately to settle the issue, the President issued a proclamation summoning parliament on November 14.
In the meanwhile, Sirisena and Rajapaksa tried hard to get 113 to support them, but failed. Dissolution followed.
Fresh elections to parliament are expected to be held in January 2019. But the actual date will be announced by the Election Commission.
Under the Sri Lankan constitution, the government remains in power between the dissolution of parliament and the election of a new one.