Sri Lankan Parliament’s speaker recognises Wickremesinghe as PM

Vastavam web: Sri Lankan Parliament’s speaker on Sunday recognised Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s prime minister, saying he has “obtained a mandate to secure democracy and good governance , in a major relief to the embattled UNP leader who was sacked by President Maithripala Sirisena in a dramatic move on Friday night. In a letter to Sirisena, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya questioned the president’s decision to suspend parliament till November 16, saying it will have “serious and undesirable” consequences on the country.

Sirisena on Friday night sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister. Next day, Sirisena suspended parliament till November 16 after Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority. The president also withdrew Wickremesinghe’s personal security and vehicles in order to accord them to his 72-year-old successor, who staged a dramatic political comeback on Friday.

“In this context continuing the prorogation of parliament until November 16 will have serious and undesirable consequences for our country and I kindly request you to reconsider same. I consider it is my duty to draw your attention to the convention that a prorogation should be one in consultation with the speaker,” Jayasuriya said. The speaker also questioned Sirisena’s decision to withdraw the security of Wickremesinghe. Jayasuriya reminded Sirisena of certain forcible takeovers of state institutions since Rajapaksa was named Wickremesinghe’s successor by the president.

Sirisena’s decision to suspend the parliament until November 16 was seen as a an effort to coerce legislators into supporting Rajapaksa. He was the second UNP legislator to back Rajapaksa since Friday night. Analysts said Rajapaksa now has 99 seats, 14 short of the 113 required. Wickremesinghe’s UNP now stands at 105, just eight short of the majority. Two parties, the Marxist JVP with their six seats and the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with their 16 are to stay neutral.

The TNA sources said Rajapaksa had spoken to the TNA leader R Sampanthan over telephone and asked for their support. Wickremesinghe, who termed his shock dismissal as illegal and unconstitutional, remained at the prime minister’s official residence-cum-office of Temple Trees. Sirisena and Wickremesinghe had joined to form a government of national unity in 2015 to bring in constitutional and governance reforms including a new constitution to address the long standing issues if the Tamil minority. Sri Lanka nearly faced economic sanctions from the West over Rajapaksa’ brutal military crackdown on the banned LTTE.