The political crisis in Sri Lanka took an ugly turn on Sunday when a security guard of sacked petroleum minister Arjuna Ranatunga opened fire on supporters of newly appointed PM Mahinda Rajapakse, killing one and injuring two others. Ranatunga was petroleum minister under sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe before the cabinet was dissolved under the new government.
When Arjuna Ranatunga tried to enter his office at the state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, his official security guard shot one and injured two others, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told Reuters. He added, the guard had been arrested and an investigation launched. Ranatunga was safe but the security guard’s motive was not immediately clear, he added.
Meanwhile, days after he was sacked as Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe has been recognised as the country’s Prime Minister by Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker on Sunday. In a letter to Sirisena, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya questioned the decision to suspend the House till November 16 and said it will have “serious and undesirable” consequences on the country, PTI reported.
Citing that Wickremesinghe had obtained the mandate of the people, Jayasuriya said, “In this context continuing the prorogation of parliament until November 16 will have serious and undesirable consequences for our country and I kindly request you to reconsider same. I consider it is my duty to draw your attention to the convention that a prorogation should be one in consultation with the speaker.”
However, the Sri Lankan maintained his stance and said that Wickremesinghe was sacked for the alleged involvement of a Cabinet minister in a plot to assassinate him. In a televised address to the nation, President Maithripala Sirisena said a person questioned by investigators had revealed the name of a minister in an alleged plot to assassinate him and a former defence secretary.
In a dramatic move, former president Mahinda Rajapakse made a return to take over the reigns of the government and was sworn in as Prime Minister by Sirisena who fired Wickremesinghe from the top post on Friday. Wickremesinghe termed the move as “illegal and unconstitutional” and vowed to prove majority in Parliament. However, a day later, the Sri Lankan president suspended the Parliament till November 16 as the sacked prime minister called for an emergency session to prove majority.
The dramatic developments in Colombo were the result of a breakdown in ties between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, especially on policy issues related to economy and security. Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance announced it was leaving the National Unity Government with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party. The Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine has only 95 seats and is short of a simple majority in the 225-member House. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) has 106 seats on its own — just seven short of the halfway mark.
Early this month, it was reported that Sirisena accused his senior coalition partner the UNP of not taking seriously an alleged conspiracy to assassinate him and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the former top defence ministry bureaucrat and brother of ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Sri Lanka nearly faced economic sanctions from the West over Rajapakse’s brutal military crackdown on the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).