Sri Lanka’s reinstated Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe marked his first day back in office Monday with a hostile president resisting his nominations to a new cabinet.
Party officials said Wickremesinghe was battling to form a government as Maithripala Sirisena insisted that he wanted to retain media and the law-and-order portfolios. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) was against giving the key portfolios to Sirisena.
“The President wants to keep law-and-order and media portfolios, but the prime minister disagrees,” a party official said adding that the tug-of-war led to the delay in forming a cabinet.
Sirisena reluctantly gave Wickremesinghe his old job back on Sunday, but made it clear that he will have a close tab on the administration signalling an uneasy cohabitation arrangement.
A new cabinet was to be named Monday, but there were no signs of finalising a list of ministers 24 hours after Wickremesinghe was sworn.
There was no immediate comment from the president’s office, but shortly after swearing-in Wickremesinghe, the president launched a scathing attack on him, accusing his previous administration of corruption.
“I still believe that I should not have made Ranil Wickremesinghe the prime minister, but I bow to the wishes of the majority in parliament,” Sirisena said.
“But, I don’t know how far we will succeed in fulfilling the wishes of our people.”
Meanwhile, the UNP staged a major rally at Galle Face on Monday afternoon to mark the reinstatement of Wickremesinghe after the judiciary and the legislature ruled against the power grab of Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine.