Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in controversial circumstances. (Image credit: Twitter)
Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was removed by President Mathripala Sirisena, has asserted that his removal as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister is illegal and unconstitutional.
This comes as Sirisena issued two gazette notices making controversial strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa the new Prime Minister and formally recognising Wickremesinghe's dismissal, leading to a constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka.
Wickremesinghe, who belongs to the United National Party (UNP), quoted the 19th amendment to the constitution and stressed he will continue to serve the country as Prime Minister. “I will continue to be the Prime Minister. Mahinda Rajapaksa's appointment is unconstitutional. Only I have the majority. The only way that can be changed is through a no confidence motion or if I resign,” Wickremesinghe told PTI.
The Colombo Gazette reported that hours after Sirisena dismissed Wickremesinghe, the President issued a notice on the appointment of Rajapaska as the new premier. Rajapaksa took oath at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on Friday and following the ceremony, Sirisena wrote to Wickremesinghe saying he had been removed.
The sudden development came amid growing tensions between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on several policy matters and the President has been critical of the Prime Minister and his policies, especially on economy and security.
In April, Wickremesinghe successfully defeated a no trust motion in Parliament engineered by Sirisena with backing from Rajapaksa.
The UNP, however, suffered one defection after Rajapaksa was sworn in with Ananda Aluthgamage meeting the former president and extending him support.
The political developments unfolded after Sirisena's broader political front United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) announced that it has decided to quit the current unity government with Wickremesinghe's UNP.
The unity government was formed in 2015 when Sirisena was elected President with Wickremesinghe's support, ending a nearly decade-long rule by Rajapaksa.
- With PTI inputs