Sri Lankan Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga. (PTI)
Days after President Maithripala Sirisena ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapakse as the premier, bodyguards for Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga fired live rounds at a mob on Sunday leaving a person dead and two injured, worsening the political crisis in India’s neighbouring nation.
According to reports, the bodyguards of cricketer-turned-politician Arjuna Ranatunga fired live rounds at a mob loyal to Sirisena after the group tried to take the cabinet member hostage.
The incident took place when Ranatunga visited the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) office, with several its workers objecting to his presence at the office. When Ranatunga entered the building the supporters of the new Prime Minister Rajapaksa took exception to him visiting the office and shouted slogans. When they were not allowed to move out, shots were fired which injured three persons.
It was the first report of serious violence since Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe on Friday and installed former strongman Rajapakse as the new prime minister, triggering political chaos.
News agency Reuters reported that the guard had been arrested and an investigation launched. Ranatunga was safe but the security guard's motive was not immediately clear.
The shift of power came after Sirisena's broader political front United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) announced that it has decided to quit the current unity government with prime minister Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP). This led to Sirisena appointing Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister, replacing Wickremesinghe, which follows a semi-presidential mode of government.
President Sirisena’s party put an end to the coalition after tensions surfaced between him and Wickremesinghe.“The swearing in of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister is “illegal and unconstitutional”, Wickremesinghe had said.
“I will continue to be the Prime Minister. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s appointment is unconstitutional,” he added.
(With PTI inputs)