Colombo: Sri Lanka's Court of Appeal on Monday accepted a legal challenge against newly-appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Cabinet, deepening the political crisis that enters its second month in the island country. The court accepted the petition filed by 122 legislators against Rajapaksa and 48 others who have been named as ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers in the new government appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena. The case will be taken up for preliminary hearing on Friday.
The petitioners are seeking an interim order preventing Rajapaksa and his government from exercising any authority of a legitimate Cabinet. The legislators who have filed the petition are from ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party, the Tamil National Alliance and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. They argue that a "state of anarchy and chaos" would ensue in the country given that Rajapaksa's Cabinet had lost two no-confidence motions and does not command a majority in Parliament.
Sri Lanka has been embroiled in a severe political crisis after Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister on 26 October.
Sirisena won't appoint Wickremesinghe again as PM
President Sirisena asserted that he will not appoint Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister again. According reports, Sirisena said that he has even apprised his party, the United National Party (UNP) about this decision. "I will not appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister in my lifetime. I have told them very clearly not to bring Ranil Wickremesinghe to me even if it's proven legally that the UNF has the majority," the report quoted President Sirisena as saying.
Sirisena made this statement at a meeting with foreign journalists. Sirisena defended the removal of Wickremesinghe, appointment of a new Prime Minister, the dissolution of the cabinet and the Parliament. The Lankan President also stated that the Central Bank bond scam which was exposed three months after Wickremesinghe's appointment derailed Sirisena's plans of providing clean and good governance. Srisena added that owing to rampant corruption and Wickremesinghe's stubborn attitude, he had to remove him from the ministerial post and replace him with Rajapaksa for the good of the country. "He was very stubborn and was not accommodative. He even exercised my powers. He not only exercised prime ministerial powers, he also began using the powers of the President," the President added. Sirisena also hinted about constituting a commission that would probe the corruption and fraud which took place during Wickremesinghe's tenure.
Wickeremesinghe’s alliance wins control
Meanwhile, Wickeremesinghe’s alliance won control of a powerful panel in Parliament, dealing a major blow to Sirisena and Rajapaksa. Sirisena’s party members walked out of Parliament, which resumed its session on Friday after being adjourned on Monday, protesting against Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s move to appoint five members of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), which is led by the President. The Speaker named five members from the United National Front (UNF) of Wickeremesinghe and one each from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). This is in continuation of the political unrest plaguing the country since October 26. Both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa claim to be the prime minister. Wickremesinghe says his dismissal is invalid because he still holds a majority in the 225-member Parliament.