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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s disputed Prime Minister Rajapaksa resigns

  • Controversially appointed PM steps down to finally end the island’s political crisis
  • The move comes a day after the Supreme Court banned the former strongman president and his disputed cabinet from exercising powers of the offices they claimed
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 10:54pm

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was controversially appointed to the post in October, stepped down Saturday to end the island’s political crisis.

“Since I have no intention of remaining as prime minister without a general election being held, and in order to not hamper the president in any way, I will resign from the position of prime minister and make way for the president to form a new government,” Rajapaksa said in a statement.

The move comes a day after the Supreme Court banned Rajapaksa, a former strongman president, and his disputed cabinet from exercising powers of the offices they claimed since October 26.

On that day, President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa in his place.

With Rajapaksa unable to demonstrate a parliamentary majority, the president first suspended and then sacked parliament, and set a general election on January 5, two years ahead of schedule.

However, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the dissolution of Parliament last month was illegal and unconstitutional.

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Official sources say Wickremesinghe is likely to be reinstated on Sunday and he will also form a new Cabinet to ensure that Sri Lanka will have a budget for 2019.

Earlier, Sirisena had refused to reinstate Wickremesinghe, saying he had serious personal and policy differences with him. However, on Wednesday, the legislature voted overwhelmingly to demand the reinstatement of Wickremesinghe.

The unprecedented seven-week political crisis has battered the country’s fragile economy, though life has otherwise gone on as normal and the military has remained neutral.

International credit rating agencies earlier downgraded Sri Lanka amid the power vacuum and fears that Sri Lanka may have difficulty servicing its foreign debt as well as raising new loans.

The leftist People’s Liberation Front has called for the impeachment of Sirisena as well as an investigation into what they called a coup.

The prime ministerial sacking and appointment on October 26 marked the first time in Sri Lankan history for power to change without a national election.