The former president of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa has been banned from acting as Prime Minister following no-confidence motions that were passed this past November. According to Aljazeera, this upheaval began on October 26, when President Maithripala Sirisena removed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe from his position and put Rajapaksa in place. Following this move, President Sirisena attempted to dissolve the House and call for elections, but was blocked by the Supreme Court.
On Friday, December 7, the Supreme Court held a hearing to assess the legality of President Sirisena’s actions. According to the New York Times, the Court of Appeal has also ordered Prime Minister Rajapaksa and his cabinet to appear in court on December 12th to provide an explanation as to what power gives them the right to hold office after Parliament has banned them from taking government action.
In response to these events, Prime Minister Rajapaksa plans to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision this week. According to the Hindu, the deposed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe calls on President Sirisena to adhere to their constitution and on Tuesday he reportedly said, “Don’t be like Hitler and other dictators,” in reference to the President’s actions. Former Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is head to the United National Party (UNP) in Sri Lanka, which is set on seeing Wickremesinghe reinstated as Prime Minister. President Sirisena refuses to work with Wickremesinghe again and claimed that he would not reinstate Wickremesinghe “even if all 225 MPs sign a petition.”
According to Aljazeera, President Sirisena even stated he would instate whoever else the UNP’s would choose as Prime Minister within 24 hours, a proposal which they declined. Ranil Wickremesinghe also issued this statement on Twitter, “The triumph of democratic institutions over the whims of individuals is the legacy of the good governance agenda. We will continue to defend the sovereignty of our citizens and we stand ready to face elections in a legitimate manner in line with the constitution.” Wickremesinghe remains determined to remain Prime Minister and to ensure the constitution is upheld.
I applaud the Supreme Court’s temporary banning of Prime Minister Rajapaksa as President Sirisena’s actions were unconstitutional. According to Straits Times, in 2015 an amendment was passed which removes the President’s power to dismiss the Prime Minister. This makes President Sirisena’s actions illegal and unwarranted. President Sirisena’s appointment of Rajapaksa was confusing to everyone in the nation since the two were former foes; moreover, Rajapaksa is accused of human rights abuses. This crisis has rocked Sri Lanka’s people and has produced unsteady feelings throughout the nation.
This new crisis is fresh following the turmoil of the Sri Lanka Civil War which ended in 2009. Former President Rajapaksa presided during the civil war from 2005-2015. This is causing some problems with Former President Rajapaksa being installed as Prime Minister, for he is remembered for this horrible time in Sri Lanka’s history. Many question President Sirisena’s abruptness in dismissing Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. In response to this, President Sirisena counters that he had to act. According to VOX, Sirisena claimed that “one of Wickremesinghe’s cabinet ministers had been plotting to assassinate him.” Many aspects of this situation are confusing. All that is certain is that neither Rajapaksa, who claims popular support, or Wickremesinghe, have any plans to relinquish power as Prime Minister. There is fear that this conflict will turn violent and bring these few years of semi-peace to an end.
The Supreme Court’s decision will decide the future of the Sri Lankan Government: will it be one where all must adhere to the constitution or where power grabs and dictatorial agenda rule? Continuous power given to Rajapaksa could bide bad for the Sri Lankan people and President Sirisena’s actions could lead total disregard for the law. The lack of stability in Sri Lanka is an important peace issue. Where there is instability, conflict usually rises, and this situation occurring only years after the civil war does not bode well for peace. I believe that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe should be reinstated. His reinstatement would show that everyone must abide by the law, even top government officials like that President. This would be a great example for the people and show there are peaceful ways to fight corruption. The Court’s decision should be made known soon and in so also the future of the Sri Lankan Government.