Explainer: How Mahinda Rajapaksa Pulled off a Constitutional Coup in Sri Lanka

27 October, 2018, 18:31 | Author: Carlos George
  • Sri Lanka Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as prime minister

After Sirisena's election in 2015, Sri Lanka shifted from confrontation to conciliation with the USA and other Western powers and promised at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to investigate allegations of abuses.

Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet on Friday and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, creating what some observers said could be a constitutional crisis.

Mahinda Amaraweera, agriculture minister and the general secretary of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), told reporters that the UPFA decision has been conveyed to Parliament.

"I remain as prime minister and I will function as the prime minister".

"The appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister is unconstitutional and illegal".

Wickremesinghe's views were echoed by Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera, who in a tweet said: "This is an anti democratic coup".

Rajapakse, 72, is a controversial figure at home and overseas but has pushed for a return to frontline politics since he lost a presidential election to Sirisena in 2015.

The dramatic developments came after deepening disagreements between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe over economic policy and day-to-day administration of the government. Both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe were in India and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recent weeks.

Wickremesinghe, who has vowed to remain prime minister, urged the Speaker to convene Parliament on Sunday to allow him to prove his party's majority in the legislative body.

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Since his rushed swearing in, Rajapakse is yet to announce the formation of a Cabinet - which under the Constitution is automatically dissolved when a prime minister is removed.

This is the second time that a president has ousted Wickremesinghe from office.

Rajapakse lost the presidency in January 2015 and the subsequent parliamentary elections in August 2015.

There were reports of sporadic attacks against supporters of Wickremesinghe's United National Party in several parts of the country after Rajapakse was sworn in late Friday.

Sri Lanka is deeply scarred by the civil war between the Buddhist Sinhalese majority and ethnic Tamil rebels, who were largely Hindu and were demanding a separate nation for minority Tamils. They resumed broadcasting Saturday and were supporting Rajapakse.

In May, Sirisena asked his prime minister to end their power struggle and said the coalition should commit to a reform agenda to revive the country emerging from a decades-long ethnic war that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Wickremesinghe had survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament in April, which was brought by supporters of Rajapaksa.

Rights groups say tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the campaign, but Rajapakse has refused to acknowledge any abuses in the civil war.

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