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Hope democratic values, constitutional process will be respected: India on Sri Lanka crisis

In a dramatic turn of events, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena suspended Parliament till November 16 a day after sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority.

Sri Lankan president agrees to summon Parliament on November 7, says Speaker Sri Lanka’s newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa (L) smiles next to President Maithripala Sirisena during their party members’ meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka

In its first remarks on the political tensions in Sri Lanka, India on Sunday said that it was “closely following” the developments in the island nation and hoped that the “democratic values and constitutional process” will be respected in the country. In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said, India would extend “developmental assistance to the friendly people” of Sri Lanka.

In a dramatic turn of events, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday suspended Parliament till November 16 a day after sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a return to power as the country’s new Prime Minister, even as Wickremesinghe called the move “illegal and unconstitutional.”

The abrupt political development surfaced in the wake of President Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) declaration that it has called off the coalition with former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). This led to President Sirisena appointing Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister, replacing Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, 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.

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Wickremesinghe had earlier, in a letter to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, demanded an emergency session to prove his majority. “`As far as the prime ministership is concerned, the person who has the majority support in parliament has to be the prime minister, and I have that majority of support,” he said in a news conference on Saturday. “When a motion of no confidence was moved (in the past), we defeated it, showing that the house has the confidence in me.”

Sources say the President prorogued the House till November 16 to allow Rajapaksa more time to seek a majority in Parliament. Earlier, the Parliament was scheduled to meet on November 5 to unveil the 2019 annual budget.

Tensions have been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of some of the economic reforms being introduced by the prime minister. Sirisena was also critical of investigations into military personnel accused in the human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s long civil war.

What complicates the situation for Delhi is that the alleged involvement of India has been dragged into Sri Lankan politics by major players to suits their interests. While Sirisena claimed R&AW’s involvement in an assassination plot to kill him (he later denied this publicly and to Modi) this month, Rajapaksa has also blamed R&AW for its defeat in 2015. “We have vital strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region, and it begins with Sri Lanka. We need to have a strong robust relationship with the government of the day,” the source explained.

First published on: 28-10-2018 at 12:33:15 pm
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