Sri Lanka’s disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has signed what was called a ‘resignation’ letter at his residence in the capital Colombo, ending an extraordinary saga in the country’s parliamentary history where he clung on to power despite suffering no-confidence motions.
Rajapaksa was appointed Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena appointed Rajapaksa Prime Minister on October 26, triggering a constitutional crisis, banking on buying over corrupt or disgruntled members to build a parliamentary majority.
However even members of his United National Party who opposed the unpopular actions of Wickremesinghe’s so-called ‘cronies’ as well as a section of the parliamentary group which was at the centre of a corruption scandal failed to cross over.
The action gave rise to unusual civic action in a country against what was called the ‘#couplk’ in social media by a populace that was cowed until 2015 by Rajapaksa’s authoritarian rule, disappearances and ‘white vans’.
Rajapaksa then suffered multiple no confidence motions, but clung on to power until Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal barred him from acting as Prime Minister along with his so called ‘fake’ cabinet.
Legislator M A Sumanthiran said the event was a first in Commonwealth history.
Rajapaksa then appealed to the Supreme Court, which had regained its independence following a constitutional change in 2015.
The Supreme Court refused to overturn the lower court order, leading to his resignation.
Wickremesinghe is expected to be sworn in shortly.
But a section of his parliamentary group, civil activists and independence analysts expect him and his coterie of ‘cronies’ to rapidly squander any political capital built up during the last two months.
The United National Party has a constitution weighted towards the incumbent leaders, which party activists have called for radical reform.