Colombo: Former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday assumed charge as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister even as the sacked PM Ranil Wickremesinghe asserted that he still commands the majority in parliament amid warning by the speaker that there could be “bloodbath” on the streets if the political crisis is not resolved immediately.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s new cabinet was also sworn in and Rajapaksa was named the new minister of finance and economic affairs. The new Cabinet was limited to just 12 ministers. Among the new ministers, three belonged to the ousted Wickremesinghe’s United National Party who have defected. The rest of the ministers are from Sirisena’s previous cabinet with Wickremesinghe.
President Sirisena on Friday sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa as the new prime minister in a surprise move that is being debated as a constitutional coup. Sirisena also suspended parliament till November 16 after Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority.
Sri Lankan parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya has warned that there could be a “bloodbath”. “Some are trying to settle this outside on the streets. If that is allowed there can be bloodshed, two people have died already and the country will suffer damage,” Jayasuriya told reporters in Kandy, adding, the issue should be resolved inside parliament.
Two people died and one was wounded in a shooting Sunday at the petroleum ministry, the first violence related to the political turmoil. Arjuna Ranatunga, who was petroleum minister under Wickremesinghe, said one of his security guards opened fire when Rajapaksa supporters mobbed him and protested his entry to the ministry. On Monday, police arrested Ranatunga in connection with the shooting. His security guard was arrested on Sunday. Ranatunga was the captain of the Sri Lankan team which won the 1996 World Cup.
Wickremesinghe, who continues to occupy his Temple Trees office-cum-residence of the PM, said that he commands the majority and could prove it when the House reconvenes. “No one can interfere with parliament.”