CONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has signed what was called a ‘resignation’ letter at his residence in the capital Colombo, ending an extraordinary saga in the country’s parliamentary history where he clung on to power despite suffering no-confidence motions.
Local televisions station interrupted normal programming in mid-morning Saturday, to bring visuals of what was said to be him signing a ‘resignation’ letter.
Rajapaksa was appointed Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26, triggering a constitutional crisis, banking on buying over corrupt or disgruntled members of incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to build a parliamentary majority.
Wickremesinghe famously lacks people skills, and has uneasy relations with the parliamentary group, other members of his party and the general public.
Ranjan Ramanayake, a vocal UNP legislator told reporters at recent press conference that members of his electorate asked whether he had any ‘problem’ with the party leader, since Wickremesinghe ignored him during functions at his electorate.
However even members of Sri Lanka’s United National Party who opposed the unpopular actions of Wickremesinghe’s so-called ‘cronies’ as well as a section of the parliamentary group which was at the centre of a corruption scandal failed to cross over.
The Sirisena-Rajapaksa actions gave rise to unusual civic action in a country against what was called the ‘#couplk’ in social media by a populace that was cowed until 2015 by Rajapaksa’s authoritarian rule, disappearances and ‘white vans’.
Wickremesinghe refused to move out of his official residence, making it the center of resistence.
Rajapaksa then suffered multiple no confidence motions, but clung on to power until Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal barred him from acting as Prime Minister along with his so-called ‘fake’ cabinet.
Legislator M A Sumanthiran said the event was a first in Commonwealth history.
Rajapaksa then appealed to the Supreme Court, which had regained its independence following a constitutional change in 2015.
The Supreme Court refused to overturn the lower court order yesterday, leading to his resignation.
Wickremesinghe is expected to be sworn in shortly, taking over a battered economy, which has suffered credit downgrades and is going through a balance of payments pressure triggered by money printed to enforce artificial interest rates.
But a section of his parliamentary group, civil activists and independent analysts expect Wickremesinghe and his coterie of ‘cronies’ to rapidly squander any political capital built up during the last two months as he did in 2015.