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Outgoing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Confers with New President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Cordial Meeting; Will Discuss with Ruling Party Members Before Stepping Down as PM.

By Chandani Kirinde

Speculation was rife last night that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will step down today, along with members of the Cabinet, to pave the way for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to make new appointments, whilst others claimed the former will hold on for a little longer.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that he will hold several discussions today, including with ruling party parliamentarians, before stepping down. Wickremesinghe is under pressure to quit UNP leadership and retire after the massive defeat of the party at Saturday’s Presidential Poll, whilst some analysts claim he emerged victorious as far as party politics was concerned.

Yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to discuss the transfer of power to a new administration. “It was a very cordial meeting and the two discussed several important issues,” the sources said.

The new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa meanwhile is expected to appoint a 15-member caretaker Cabinet, as an interim measure till fresh General Elections are held and his party secures a parliamentary majority.

Before meeting with the President, the Prime Minister met with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, and leaders of political parties represented in Parliament, to discuss the role of Parliament in the wake of the election of a new President.

“All agreed that a clear mandate has been given by the people, and steps must be taken to reflect the people’s will in Government,” the Speaker’s Office said.

Party leaders agreed to look at the three options on the table and decide when the next General Election will be held before the end of the week.

One suggestion is to allow the present Parliament to continue till 1 March 2020, when it can be dissolved by the President, paving the way for fresh elections to be held in April, while the second is to pass a motion with the support of two-thirds of Parliament so that a snap General Election can be held.

There is also a proposal for a caretaker Government to take over until a General Election is held at the end of the current five-year term of this Parliament.

The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader said they would discuss these proposals with their constituent parties, and inform the Speaker. The Speaker will then summon another party leader meeting to make a final decision, the Speaker’s Office said in a press release.

Several UPFA MPs said yesterday they want an immediate dissolution of Parliament, but many in the UNP have refused to support such a motion in Parliament, which needs approval by a two-thirds majority.

Courtesy:Daily FT