Following a crisis marked by two competing claims to the office of the Prime Minister, R. Sampanthan — Leader of Opposition since 2015 — on Wednesday challenged the Speaker on his naming of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for the position.
Referring to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s announcement on Tuesday, following a request made by the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by President Maithripala Sirisena, Mr. Sampanthan said the decision was made without removing him from the post.
“Consequently, it would seem that there are two persons holding the position of the Leader of the Opposition in the current Parliament. The question arises as to whether you lacked the conviction to remove me from the post of the Leader of the Opposition,” the senior legislator said.
After nearly two months of political upheaval sparked by President Sirisena’s abrupt sacking of Mr. Wickremesinghe in October, replacing him with Mr. Rajapaksa, the ousted PM was reinstated on Sunday. However, the Cabinet is yet to be formed, reportedly due to infighting over allocation of portfolios.
“In these circumstances when a government has not yet been fully constituted, I submit there was no need for another person to be recognised as the Leader of the Opposition in haste. Doing so without removing the functioning Leader of the Opposition has further complicated the issue,” Mr. Sampanthan noted.
Further, Mr. Sampanthan raised doubts over Mr. Rajapaksa’s eligibility to remain a member of Parliament, after the former President sought membership in the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, a new party formed by his supporters. Arguing he no longer belonged to the party through which he was elected to the legislature, Mr. Sampanthan told the Speaker: “This would again suggest that your decision has been taken in haste and that your decision is in violation of our Constitution.”
The events, he said, prompted the question as to whether Sri Lanka is moving towards becoming “a failed state” which does not recognise the supremacy of its Constitution the primary law. “Sri Lankan citizens who wish to live in an undivided indivisible Sri Lankan State in unity and harmony view this as an act of majoritarianism, which has been the primary cause of the pathetic state in which the country is in today,” he said, emphasising the “urgent” need for the promised, but much-delayed, framing of a new Constitution.