Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as Sri Lankan Prime Minister amid political drama
Colombo, Oct 26: Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been sworn-in as the Prime Minister before President Maithripala Sirisena. He replaced Ranil Wickremesinghe, reports Sri Lankan media.
A private television network loyal to Mr Rajapakse televised him being sworn in as the new Prime Minister, replacing Mr Wickremesinghe.
Rajapaksa, 72, tweeted a photo of him and Sirisena after the swearing in ceremony. "Former #SriLanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as new Prime Minister," he said in the tweet.
The unexpected announcement comes just minutes after the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) decided to withdraw from the unity government.
UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera, speaking to Ada Derana, stated that the Speaker of Parliament has been notified of the decision in writing.
Reacting sharply to the development, Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera said that the appointment of Rajapaksa as the prime minister is "unconstitutional and illegal".
"This is an anti democratic coup," he said in a tweet. The unity government was formed in 2015 when Sirisena was elected President with Wickremesinghe's support, ending a nearly decade-long rule by Rajapaksa.
The sudden political development ends an over three-year-old coalition government that was formed by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on a promise to combat corruption and financial irregularities. Sirisena, who was Rajapaksa's minister of health, broke away from him to contest the presidential elections.
Political analysts said Sirisena's move to install Rajapaksa as the prime minister could lead to a constitutional crisis as the 19th amendment to the Constitution would not allow the sacking of Wickremesinghe as the premier without a majority.
Last week, it was reported that Mathripala 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.
(with PTI inputs)