Sri Lankan President Sirisena sacks prime minister
28 October 2018
In what amounts to a political coup, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister on Friday evening and appointed former president Mahinda Rajapakse to replace him.
In doing so, Sirisena ended the “unity government” between his faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), which has ruled the country since 2015.
The 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, enacted in April 2015, prunes back the considerable powers of the executive president, including his right to unilaterally decide to remove a prime minister.
Sirisena and Rajapakse kept their unconstitutional move strictly secret from all but their closest associates right up until the last minute. The coup is an expression of the huge political crisis confronting the Sri Lankan ruling class amid a profound economic crisis, rising geo-political tensions and a resurgence of class struggle by workers and the poor.
The new regime is tightening its grip on power. Pro-Rajapakse thugs drove out staff believed to be sympathetic to Wickremesinghe from state-owned television. Sirisena immediately took control of these TV channels and the state-owned newspaper house, Lake House. He also took over the law and order ministry, which controls the police.
Wickremesinghe branded Sirisena’s move as “unconstitutional,” declared that he was still prime minister and called for the convening of parliament to “prove his majority.”
Sirisena responded by issuing two gazettes, firstly to validate his decision to remove Wickremesinghe, and secondly, to prorogue or suspend parliament for three weeks until November 16. He plans to swear in…