By Chathuri Dissanayake and Nuwan Senarathna
President Maithripala Sirisena-appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday decided to quit, ending seven weeks of political turmoil in the country, as ousted Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe readies to retake his oaths yet again tomorrow.
Rajapaksa, whose appointment for the post was disputed from the beginning, decided to ‘resign’ as Prime Minister yesterday after an hour-long meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena and other United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) members.
The decision comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s refusal to suspend an Interim Order issued by the Court of Appeal against him and his disputed Cabinet functioning in their official capacity.
Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa, confirming the decision, told Daily FT that MP Rajapaksa had “decided to resign to ensure the stability of the nation”. Rajapaksa is also expected to make a public statement.
United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is set to take oaths before President Sirisena on Sunday at 10 a.m., UNP spokesperson Harin Fernando confirmed.
Despite his earlier objections, Sirisena has backed down from the stance of refusing to appoint Wickremesinghe again even if he commanded the majority in the house. In a speech last week, President Sirisena said that even if all 225 members of the House requested to appoint Wickremesinghe, he would not do so.
According to SLFP Parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekara, the President has agreed to appoint Wickremesinghe as “he commanded the majority with a confidence motion being passed as well”.
According to senior party members, the UNP is set to form its own Government in the coming days. Possible crossovers also featured during party discussions held with Wickremesinghe focusing on forming the new Government. However, there was also opposition from within to the idea, sources said.
“We are ready to form our Government, and if we can’t, we will go for elections. We will not accept any group from the SLFP, although we are ready to accept any individuals who are ready to join the UNP,” a UNP senior official told Daily FT.
“We are not keen on any groups. There are undesirables in the group, and they are the ones who were always holding us back, so we are not going to accept any groups.”
The group of SLFP Parliamentarians who held posts under the disputed Sirisena-Rajapaksa Government, however, has told the President that they will remain with the President as his representatives and support any decision taken by him indicating a willingness to join a UNP-led Government again.
“If the President wants us to remain in the posts we were appointed to as his representatives, we are willing to do so. We will act upon whatever he decides,” Jayasekara told Daily FT.
However, neither the SLFP nor the UPFA will enter into a formal agreement with the UNP, Jayasekara said.
“We are looking at supporting the UNP Government to counter any influence the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) might have as they may give conditional support and that will not be good when the Government wants to pass crucial bills,” he explained.
“So, to ensure there is stability, we may look at a mechanism to support as representatives of the President.”
The SLFP and SLPP are set on forming a broader alliance going forward, Jayasekara said. However, the President is yet to take a final decision on the matter.