Sri Lanka: Political history

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


A political history: 1956-2013

The Hindu, April 2, 2015

From Solomon Bandaranaike’s election in 1956 to Trincomalee massacre of students happened in 2006 to Velupillai Prabakaran’s death to this year’s development of Rajapaksa’s defeat, here is a detailed history of how Sri Lanka has been seen in the political scenario. Maithripala Sirisena has now won the presidential elections.

2014 President Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t allow the UN to investigate the war crimes during the Tamil Tiger insurgency. Mahindra Rajapaksa in an interview with The Hindu says that he faces the twin challenges of external pressure for an international probe into allegations of war crimes and internal pressure over the dialogue process with the Tamil National Alliance.

Nov 2013 Sri Lanka hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) but political heads of India, Canada and Mauritius skips the meeting. Rajapaksa satisfied with India’s representation at Commonwealth meeting

Sept 2013 Tamil National Alliance (TNA) wins election at the Northern provincial council.

Aug 2013 The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says Sri Lanka was showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.

Feb 2013 On February 19, 2013 a series of photographs showed Velupillai Prabakaran’s 12- year son Balachandran hit by bullets by a British channel’s documentary. The incident created controversies against Sri Lanka’s armed forces conduct in their final stage of operation against the Tamil Tiger rebels. However Rajapaksa government denied shooting anyone.

Sri Lanka dismisses film on Prabkakaran son’s death

Jan 2013 Rajapaksa dismisses Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake after finding her guilty on three offences including financial irregularities.

2012 Rajapaksa government dismisses UN report which states that Sri Lanka intimidated UN members investigating abuses at the end of the civil war in 2009. UN blames itself for failure during Eelam war climax The former Sri Lankan Army Chief, Sarath Fonseka freed after two and a half years. Sri Lanka was in the same state when it came to ensuring justice to the victims of numerous Human Rights violations.

2011 United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was appointed to monitor the government’s implementation of Human Rights.

2010 Mahinda Rajapaksa re-elected. He promises to restore an independent National Human Rights Commission along with other commissions.

March 2009 Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan (Karuna), former deputy leader of the LTTE joins Rajapaksa's cabinet.

May 2009 On May 18, 2009 Velupillai Prabakaran was killed by the Sri Lankan army. The war between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan military reaches its bitter end and the Tigers decide to silence their guns in the interest of Tamil citizens.

LTTE supremo Prabakaran believed dead

Battle at its bitter end: LTTE

Protest against ‘killing’ of Prabhakaran

2008 Government blames LTTE after 12 civilians killed and 100 injured over a suicide bomb attack. Government launches massive offense ending the 2002 ceasefire agreement.

2007 At least 28 people, which includes 14 cadres of the LTTE, die in clashes between the security forces and the Tamil Tigers in September.

2006 The political killings, child soldiers, abductions, and clashes between the government and LTTE creates tension around the country. The Trincomalee massacre of students happened in 2006. It was considered to be act of state terror. Vankalai massacre of four minority Sri Lankan Tamils. It was also considered to be act of state terror.

2005 Rajapaksa elected for the first time.

2003 The Sri Lankan government and the LTTE hold peace talks and agree on a ceasefire.

2000 The European Union criticises both the Tamil Tigers and security forces concerning the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

1999 A female suicide bomber attacks a police station in Colombo targeting the head of the terrorism unit, Mohammad Nilabdeen.

1995 The third Eelam war breaks out after a suicide squad attacked two naval vessels in Trincomalee killing 12 soldiers.

1994 President Kumaratunga again initiates peace talks with LTTE.

1993 An LTTE suicide bomber kills Ranasinghe Premadasa, the third President of Sri Lanka during a May Day rally.

1991 LTTE suicide bomber kills Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu. He was instrumental in bringing the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.

1990 Second Eelam War breaks. East Province taken over by Sri Lankan Forces after heavy fighting. The LTTE continue to kill civilians in the Eastern province.

1988 Nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) protests against the Sri Lanka-India agreement.

1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, which was intended to end the civil war between Sri Lankan Tamil nationalists and LTTE, signed.

1983 ‘Black July’ riots erupt in Sri-Lanka; about 64,000 people were killed.

1977 LTTE was formed.

1970 Sirimavo Bandaranaike re-elected and she brings back Sinhalese nationalism.

1965 Opposition party wins the elections and tries reverse the nationalisation.

1960 Sirimavo Bandaranaike becomes first woman Prime Minister in the world. She was sworn in on July 21, 1960 after her United National Party won the elections.

1959 On September 25, 1959, Solomon Bandaranaike was shot by Talduwe Somarama, a Buddhist monk. He succumbed to injuries the next day.

1956 Solomon Bandaranaike was elected as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. He made Sinhala the only official language. More than 100 Sri Lankan Tamils people were killed after the Tamil members of parliament protested.

2015: Fall of Rajapaksa

Kingshuk Mukherji@ timesgroup com

The Times of India January 10, 2015

Ethnic distribution of population in Sri Lanka

The Southern Expressway leading up to Colombo is calm, deceptively so. The government has changed. The man whose name many hesitated to take, some out of deference, others out of fear, will no longer be president of their country.Mahinda Rajapaksa suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of friend-turned-rival Maithripala Sirisena. Many concede that the dispensation they have voted into office may not necessarily give them a great government.“Had there been an option like NOTA as India has, I would have gone for it. In other words, the candidate I wanted to defeat has lost,“ says Nalaka Pereira, an executive in an IT firm in Colombo.

In many small towns of this island country, development shows. Roads are smooth, expressways built in concrete.Banks, ATMs and finely stocked supermarkets do brisk business, even in villages. No one denies the development story of Sri Lanka under Rajapaksa. But they complain of cronyism, family patronage and corruption.

Voices in Colombo also speak of the media being stifled. There is simmering anger against the disappearance and killings of journalists. Today as results of the keenlywatched Rajapaksa-Sirisena face-off stream in, villages along the expressway are abnormally quiet at high noon.Barring low-key celebrations at the coastal town of Hikkaduwa, there is little to show in the southern parts that this is a moment of change and a new beginning.

“In India, on results day sweet makers probably make a killing, here we struggle to find customers since most markets are closed,“ says the shop attendant of Bombay Sweet Mahal in Galle Street, Colombo.Perhaps the Sri Lankans prefer the safety of quiet celebrations.

“We are a Buddhist country and our belief in peace and compassion is fundamental to us. Many of us did not appreciate some extra constitutional and often violent tactics of key people in the outgoing government. But who can rival the towering personality of Rajapaksa,“ says Vijitha Priyadarshini, a hospitality industry employee. “The previous dispensation had one authority figure. The new will have many .Wonder what they will do? Will there be multiple centres of power saying different things creating confusion?“ she says.Many talk of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga's behind-the-scenes role in keeping the opposition together.What role she will play in the new government is a question everyone is curious about.

A TV channel beaming the election results ran a dramatic colour-coded map of the island nation showing the entire north, east and parts of central Sri Lanka swept by “common candidate“ Maithripala. “Even a town like Negombo, traditionally pro-Rajapaksa, voted Maithripala. This is unbelievable,“ an election watcher in Matara says.

In any case, the die was cast against the incumbent the day both the Tamils and the Muslims decided to vote en bloc for the common candidate.“Maithripala's defection was a master stroke. It came as a stunner and the ruling dispensation was forced to change strategy overnight. They were expecting an opposition charge led by Wickramasinghe and others but with Maithripala skippering the rival camp, the story had changed,“ he says.

In the once strife-torn parts of Jaffna, Rajapaksa's government worked a furious pace rebuilding. The results show.The Colombo-Jaffna highway is a dream. In Jaffna town, there's a push for change and in many years for the first time its Tamil population has a stake in the country's political future.“I went to Kerala at the height of the war,“ says S Sridharan, who runs a hotel in Jaffna.“Now I am back, I have redone the hotel and business is picking up. I want good governance and stability ,“ he says.

Rajapaksa made a last minute bid to shore up his fortunes in the north addressing a rally in Jaffna five days ahead of polling. Despite his rebuilding efforts, the process of integration and reconciliation clearly failed to impress the electorate. Rajapaksa lost by huge margins in Batticaloa, Jaffna and other Tamil areas, where voter turnout was higher than any previous election.

In the capital, a journalist with the public broadcaster said the lack of transparency was the biggest failing of the outgoing government. “Arrogance and good governance seldom go hand in hand. This administration lost its humility and was not open to criticism. That proved its undoing,“ he says.


February, Rajapaksa triumphs in local elections

R Hariharan, The Empire Strikes Back, February 21, 2018: The Times of India

Rajapaksa triumphs in local elections, his shadow looms again over Sri Lankan politics

The shock waves of the landslide victory of the newly formed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, backed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in local government (LG) elections held on February 10, has left the fragile coalition of President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) in total disarray. Many members of both parties are pressuring the leaders to quit the alliance and form the government on their own, while the two leaders are blaming each other for the debacle.

The election had built in uncertainties as this was the first time mixed voting system of proportional and first-pastthe-post voting was adopted for LG polls. Moreover, the parties had to nominate women for 25% of their contestants. The two partners of the coalition contested separately on their own and there was a lot of acrimony between them during the campaigning. Sirisena tried and failed to win back SLFP members in the opposition who were supporting Rajapaksa. UNP’s own internal leadership squabble affected its performance.

70% of 15.8 million Sri Lankans voted to elect a total of 8,293 members to 340 local bodies (24 municipal councils, 41 urban councils and 275 divisional councils) in the election. According to official results, SLPP secured 44.65% of votes and captured 231 local councils, UNP was a distant second polling 32.63% votes to secure only 34 councils; the Sirisena-led SLFP and its National Peoples Freedom Alliance (NPFA) got the worst drubbing, polling a dismal 13.38% votes to capture only 9 councils. The Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) – the lead party of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) – captured 41 local councils.

Undoubtedly, SLPP’s vote mostly came from southern Sinhala rural voters indicating the former President Rajapaksa has maintained his support base in the Sinhala heartland. Though LG elections do not necessarily reflect political trends in parliamentary polls, Rajapaksa seems to have retained much of the 47.6% votes he polled in the presidential election in 2015.

Though local issues dominate LG elections, they serve as a barometer of political parties’ strength at the grassroots. Moreover, the much delayed LG elections were also a mid-term reality check on the performance of the ruling national unity coalition which had defeated Rajapaksa not once, but twice, in presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015. If Rajapaksa’s current revival continues, he may well bounce back on political mainstage when elections for nine provincial councils and parliament are held in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

The main reason for the failure of UNP and SLFP appears to be people’s disillusionment with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition for failing to deliver upon their promises of good governance. Perhaps, the most glaring failure related to the inordinate delay in punishing those responsible for misuse of office, corruption and cronyism during the Rajapaksa regime even though 34 such cases involving Rajapaksa family members and their cohorts have been investigated. On the other hand, Sirisena government had its own baggage of scams like the one involving Raja Mahendran, governor of Bank of Ceylon in issuing sovereign bonds in 2015 and inclusion of tainted members in the coalition.

The government’s co-sponsorship of a UNHRC resolution to investigate human rights excesses and war crimes allegedly committed by the army during the Eelam War probably hurt the nationalist sentiments of many southern Sinhala voters. Sirisena is now reported to be trying to force Wickremesinghe to step down from the PM’s post. On the other hand, Wickremesinghe is said to be contemplating a government on UNP’s own strength.

Finance minister and UNP leader Mangala Samaraweera said, “LG polls 2018 is a timely wake-up call to Yahapalana [good governance] government to get back on track.” Civil society leaders are pressuring both parties to work unitedly, as they do not want Rajapaksa’s autocratic rule once again.

Fall of Sri Lanka’s unity government would be of some concern to India. India owes it to the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition which restored balance in the country’s relations, skewed in favour of China during Rajapaksa’s rule. It suits India that TNA has been broadly supportive of the halting efforts of the national unity government to address the Tamil question.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone the extra mile to win back Sri Lanka’s confidence, with success. Squeezed by China’s debt burden, Sri Lanka needs India’s helping hand more than ever before. So, we can expect Sri Lanka to pursue its current policy on India even if there is a change in the ruling coalition.

However, there is a qualitative change in the strategic setting in Indian Ocean region in Sri Lanka’s vicinity, after Maldives President Yameen declared a state of emergency defying a Supreme Court judgment to release former President Nasheed and 11 other parliament members from prison. China has a huge stake in the Yameen government and has explicitly warned India to desist from “interfering” in the internal affairs of Maldives.

Though such a contingency in Sri Lanka does not appear within the realms of possibility, India will have to watch developments in Sri Lanka carefully as China is increasingly dominating Sri Lanka in many facets. The handing over of Hambantota port to the Chinese on lease legitimises China taking suitable measures to protect its interests. This has increased Sri Lanka’s importance in India’s strategic security architecture and India would always prefer a stable and friendly government in Sri Lanka.

The writer served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka (1987-90)

March, President trims PM’s duties amid political crisis

Sirisena trims PM’s duties amid ongoing political crisis, March 29, 2018: The Times of India

Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena reduced the responsibilities of PM Ranil Wickremesinghe in the backdrop of the ongoing political turmoil in the country.

The unity government of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United National Party was thrown into a crisis after former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s new party pulled off a stunning victory in local elections seen as a referendum on the ruling alliance.

Sirisena removed the control of Central Bank of Sri Lanka from Wickremesinghe in a further manifestation of the political crisis the unity government is currently faced with. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which was also under the PM, has been brought under the finance ministry by Sirisena.

The move came ahead of the next week’s no confidence motion against Wickremesinghe handed by the joint opposition of Rajapaksa. Wickremesinghe’s action to bring the Central Bank under his control was one of the main charges in the no confidence motion which alleges that it was a deliberate action to commit the fraud in the issues of Central Bank bonds in 2015.

October, President Sirisena sacks PM Wickremesinghe, appoints Rajapaksa

Lanka in turmoil as president sacks PM, appoints Rajapaksa, October 27, 2018: The Times of India

In a dramatic and unexpected event, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as PM and appointed former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. Rajapaksa took oath on Friday evening in a hurried ceremony, the development throwing politics in the island nation into turmoil — a likely setback for India.

The events unfolded when a coalition partner of the Sri Lankan government, the United People’s Freedom Alliance, decided to leave the National Unity Government — where it serves in an alliance with Sirisena’s SLFP and Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP.

This brings the island’s politics a full circle as in 2015, it was Sirisena who defeated Rajapaksa from within SLFP to form a coalition government with Wickremesinghe as PM. Rajapaksa has been a China-leaning leader, personally responsible for controversially giving Hambantota port and other critical infrastructure projects to the Chinese. His relations with India turned untenable, resulting in India supporting a Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition in 2015.

But Rajapaksa has sought to return to centrestage, his Sri Lanka Freedom Party winning decisively in local elections in February.

Wickremesinghe, Sirisena had serious differences

It was an open secret that Sirisena and Wickremasinghe had serious differences and the government was seen to be seriously compromised with corruption scandals and poor delivery of government promises.

In April, Wickremasinghe narrowly won a no-confidence motion engineered by a Sirisena-Rajapaksa joint front, with Tamils and Muslims supporting him. Trouble was brewing when, early in October, Rajapaksa came out to say, “It is time that the SLFP stop propping up the government.” He then added, “We will not join in any alliance with UNP as a partner.” That was when rumours started circulating about Rajapaksa making another stab at power.

A few days ago, a report claiming that Sirisena told a cabinet meeting about India’s external intelligence agency RAW plotting his assassination set off a major controversy. Though he later denied the comments and even called PM Narendra Modi to clarify his position, the incident brought back memories of Rajapaksa in 2015. Sirisena though is seen to have a penchant for courting controversy. After the last elections, Rajapaksa had blamed RAW for his defeat.

For Sirisena, his political environment was leaving him virtually isolated. He could not work with Wickremasinghe any longer. He reckoned that making a deal with Rajapaksa could keep him in his position as president, while giving Rajapaksa an entry back into power. The only thing that prevents Rajapaksa from dislodging Sirisena is the 19th amendment which prevents anyone from seeking more than two terms as president.

This was removed by Rajapaksa when he was president, but restored by Sirisena in 2015. That would have closed the doors for Rajapaksa returning for a third term. Sources in Colombo said Rajapaksa would have been uncomfortable with either of his brothers taking the political mantle from him.

November, Can’t get PM of his choice, President dissolves House

November 10, 2018: The Times of India

President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved Sri Lanka’s Parliament, paving the way for an early general election in the country which is grappling with unprecedented political crisis after the surprise sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the PM and he being replaced with Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Sirisena dissolved the Parliament hours after his party announced he did not have a majority to get his PM-nominee Rajapaksa through the legislature, a minister said.

Sirisena signed an official notification dismissing the 225-member assembly with effect from midnight, clearing the way for a snap election nearly two years ahead of schedule, the minister said asking not to be named. “The election is likely to be held in early January,” the minister said after the United People’s Freedom Alliance said it was eight legislators short of a majority in the 225-member assembly that was suspended.

Wickremesinghe’s request for a floor test to prove his majority in the House has been turned down. Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Monday slammed Sirisena’s “unconstitutional and undemocratic” actions to sack Wickremesinghe and suspend Parliament, saying he will not recognise Rajapaksa as the new premier unless he wins a floor test. The assembly speaker wanted the floor test on November 14.

Sri Lanka’s main Tamil parties turned down a call from Sirisena to support Rajapaksa in the floor test in parliament. Rajapaksa had led government forces to defeat the Tamil separatist guerrillas when he was president, and is accused of human rights violations.

November, Rajapaksa, 44 ex-MPs exit Sirisena’s party

November 12, 2018: The Times of India

Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and 44 former lawmakers have defected from the party led by President Maithripala Sirisena, splitting with the President barely two weeks after he installed Rajapaksa in office.

Sirisena dissolved parliament on Friday and called a general election for January 5 in a move that has drawn international criticism as it is likely to deepen the nation’s political crisis.

Rajapaksa, a pro-China strongman, and 44 former lawmakers of the Sirisenaled centre-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Sunday joined Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP), a party formed in 2016 by Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil, a former economy minister. An SLPP source said 65 out of 82 former SLFP MPs will eventually join the new party.

Namal Rajapaksa, an exlawmaker and son of Rajapaksa, said the SLFP’s policies had not been pursued by Sirisena in the coalition government with the Wickremesinghe-led centre-right United National Party (UNP). Sirisena’s allies have said that he wants a SLFP-led government. However, the defections will weaken Sirisena’s party, they say. Rohana Piyadaya, the SLFP secretary general declined to comment.

Meanwhile, in an address to the nation, Sirisena stoutly defended his controversial move to dissolve the parliament, saying it was taken to prevent clashes among rival lawmakers and also blamed Speaker Karu Jayasuriya for not accepting his presidential powers “If I allowed the parliament to meet on November 14, there would have been violence in the House and it could have spread to our villagers and towns... The other reason was the behaviour of Jayasuriya. He issued statements saying that he would not recognise the appointment of a new PM using my presidential powers.”

November, Lanka SC overturns dissolution of parliament

Lankan President Sirisena suffers setback as SC stays his order to dissolve parliament, November 13, 2018: The Times of India

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena suffered a major setback as the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling overturned his controversial decision to dissolve Parliament and halted until December the preparations for snap polls on January 5, 2019.

The apex court's decision deepened the political crisis in the island nation after Sirisena fired his coalition prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and installed former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new premier.

He also suspended Parliament till November 16. He, however, advanced the convening of the House to November 14 amid international and domestic pressure against the move.

A three-member bench, including country's chief justice Nalin Perera, delivered its verdict after two days of deliberations on as many as 13 petitions against and five for Sirisena's November 9 decision to dissolve Parliament.

The apex court said Sirisena's dissolution of Parliament + will be suspended until December 7 and it will consider all the petitions filed on the President's decision next month before giving a final ruling.

Sirisena dissolved Parliament after it became clear that he lacked support from lawmakers to instal Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister following his sacking of Wickremesinghe + as premier.

All petitions filed against Sirisena's decision will be heard on December 4, 5 and 6, the apex court ruled, in a historic judgement that could upset the 67-year-old president's political ambitions.

Major political parties, including the United National Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and an election commission member Ratnajeevan Hoole, on Monday dragged Sirisena to the Supreme Court, challenging his move by filing fundamental rights petitions against the move.

Sirisena dissolved Parliament last week, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered snap election on January 5, plunging the country's into an unprecedented political and constitutional crises.

Wickremesinghe has maintained that his sacking by Sirisena was unconstitutional and illegal and he was still the prime minister.

Wickremesinghe demanded that Parliament be convened to hold a vote among the lawmakers to decide who enjoyed majority support in Parliament to be the Prime Minister.

As pressure grew and both sides claimed they had the numbers, the President dissolved Parliament and called for elections.

Rajapaksa needed the support of minimum 113 parliamentarians in the 225-member House to prove his majority.

Sirisena on Sunday stoutly defended his move to dissolve Parliament, saying it was taken to prevent clashes among rival lawmakers. He said there were reports that politicians would clash during the floor test, which was due on November 14.

At the hearing Tuesday, Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya, on behalf of the State, justified Sirisena's action, saying the powers of the President are clear and unambiguous as provided for in the Constitution and the announcement of the dissolution of Parliament was done by the President in accordance with the Constitution.

He pleaded for the dismissal of all petitions and said the President was empowered to dissolve Parliament.

Rajapaksa, 72, who ruled Lanka for a nearly decades from 2005, was unexpectedly defeated by his deputy Sirisena in the presidential election held in January 2015 with the support from Wickremesinghe's UNP.

However, the power-sharing arrangement between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe became increasingly tenuous on several policy matters, especially on issues like the economy and security. And subsequently, Sirisena abruptly ousted Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa.

Sirisena suspended parliamentary proceedings until November 16. Later, owing to domestic and global pressure, he issued a notice to reconvene Parliament on November 14. Last week, he dissolved Parliament and announced snap polls in January, 2019.

December/ Ousted PM Wickremesinghe wins vote of confidence

Blow for Lanka prez as ousted PM wins vote of confidence, December 13, 2018: The Times of India

Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe emphatically proved his majority in Parliament on Wednesday, weeks after being sacked by President Maithripala Sirisena in a controversial move that plunged the nation into a political turmoil.

As many as 117 out of 225 lawmakers in Parliament voted to pass a confidence motion in his leadership.

The motion’s approval could be seen as a blow to Sirisena who has repeatedly said he will not appoint Wickremesinghe “even if he has the backing of all 225 lawmakers in parliament”.

It was not immediately clear whether the confidence vote, passed by 117 votes to none, would help to see Wickremesinghe reinstated. Sri Lanka is going through a political crisis since October 26 when Sirisena removed Wickremesinghe and installed ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. Rajapaksa has so far failed to prove his majority in Parliament.

SC: Dissolution of Parliament unconstitutional

December 13, 2018: The Times of India

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court ruled that the dissolution of Parliament by Maithripala Sirisena + was "unconstitutional", in a major setback to the president whose controversial decisions have plunged the island nation into a constitutional crisis.

A seven-member apex court bench said that the president cannot dissolve Parliament till Parliament completes a 4 1/2 year term, the Colombo Gazette reported.

Sri Lanka is going through a major political crisis since October 26 when President Sirisena, in a controversial move, sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and installed former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place.

He also dissolved Parliament and called for a snap election on January 5.

Sirisena sacked the 225-member Parliament when it appeared that Rajapaksa would not be able to muster the support of 113 MPs. Wickremesinghe on the other hand commands a majority.

As many as 13 petitions were filed + against Sirisena's November 9 order sacking the Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end.

The Supreme Court on November 13 had issued an interim order ruling Sirisena's gazette notification as temporarily illegal and halted the preparations for snap polls.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa elected President

Nov 18, 2019: The Times of India

Gotabaya Rajapaksa elected President
From: Nov 18, 2019: The Times of India

Seven months after terror attacks on Easter left 269 people dead, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, declared victory in Sri Lanka’s presidential election, signalling the return to power of a divisive family that ended the country’s long civil war through brutal means.

Rajapaksa defeated Sajith Premadasa — son of ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was killed by a suicide bomber in May 1993—by about 10 percentage points or 13 lakh votes. Election Commission officials said turnout was more than 80% and Gotabaya won about 52% of the vote.

Gotabaya’s elder brother, Mahinda, served as president from 2005 to 2015. As his defence secretary, Gotabaya — nicknamed “Terminator” by his family — effectively ran security forces, and oversaw the final assault on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended a 37-year civil war in 2009.

During campaign, Gotabaya vowed to stem terrorism

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, elected president of Sri Lanka, and his brother, former president Mahinda, stand accused of crimes against humanity, including directing the bombings of civilian hospitals and torturing journalists — allegations which they have denied.

On Sunday, Gotabaya thanked all voters in an election that heightened ethnic and religious tensions in the country. “I am conscious that I am also the president of those who used the vote against me,” he said. “It is my duty to serve all Sri Lankans without race or religious discrimination. I promise to discharge my duties in a fair manner.”

During the election, Gotabaya capitalised on public outrage at the current government’s mishandling of intelligence reports warning of terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. In April, a group claiming loyalty to the Islamic State terror group killed 269 people in suicide bombings on Easter Sunday.

The attacks shattered a fragile postwar peace in Sri Lanka, where wounds still fester from the war with the LTTE.

During campaign speeches, Gotabaya vowed to take a tough stance on terrorism as president and to bring stability to Sri Lanka, where a collapse in tourism after the bombings threw the economy into a tailspin. Many Sri Lankans struggling to make ends meet support the Rajapaksas in the hopes that they can revive the economy, which boomed toward the end of their stretch in power. Others worry that democracy and freedom of speech will be curtailed under Gotabaya.

Lanka PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, who cannot be removed unless he steps down, is likely to resign. Rajapaksa is exected to appoint Mahinda as the PM. Mahinda said one of the first tasks of the new government would be to study the 19th amendment to the constitution. Adopted in 2015, the amendment curbed the powers of the presidency, introduced a three-time bar on contesting for it and made key areas such as elections, judiciary and public service independent of political influence.

It is not the first time the former president has sought the position. In October 2018, Sri Lanka’s departing president, Maithripala Sirisena, abruptly fired PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, calling him inept and corrupt, and then appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa to the position. Many considered the move a coup, and by the time the power grab was ruled illegal, two protesters had been killed.


Gotabaya gives key cabinet posts to brothers

Nov 23, 2019: The Times of India

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa vowed to call a snap general election “at the earliest opportunity” as he appointed a 16-member interim cabinet on Friday and allotted major portfolios of defence, finance and trade to his brothers while inducting two Tamils as a sign of reaching out to the minority community.

The interim cabinet will be headed by PM and Gotabaya’s elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who will also serve as defence and finance minister. The president’s eldest brother Chamal Rajapaksa, 77, will serve as trade and food security ministry.

“This is an interim government,” Gotabaya said after swearing-in the new cabinet. “I will consult the people at the earliest opportunity I get under the constitution.”

Sri Lanka’s existing parliamentary term ends next August, and the constitution allows the president to dissolve the legislature in March and go for an election. He said the ministers of state would be appointed next week. As the president, Gotabaya cannot hold ministries although he is the head of the cabinet. The Tamil minority members came from the Tamil-dominated north and from the central tea plantations areas dominated by Tamils of Indian origin. Dinesh Gunawardena, 70, a veteran Marxist politician, has been named as the minister of foreign affairs. PTI


Parliamentary elections: majority for Rajapaksa brothers

Rajapaksa brothers tighten grip with big election win in Lanka, August 8, 2020: The Times of India

Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections handed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his older brother an overwhelming majority, results showed, giving the family power to enact sweeping changes to the constitution of the island nation.

Rajapaksa had sought, and achieved, a two-thirds majority for his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party and its allies to be able to restore full executive powers to the presidency, a move analysts say could push the country toward authoritarianism. The ruling group won 150 seats in the 225-member parliament, according to a tally published by the election commission. The two-thirds majority will see Rajapaksa’s brother and ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, 74, taking over as PM.

Gotabaya, 71, said the restoration of full executive powers was necessary to implement his agenda to make the country of 21 million economically and militarily secure. No timeline has been set for such a move. Currently, significant power is bestowed on parliament and the PM after a previous government led by the now-opposition amended the constitution and set up independent panels to oversee the police and the judiciary, among other arms of the government. “We have seen in the past when governments have had a two-thirds majority (they do) not have to worry about checks and balances,” historian Jayadeva Uyangoda said. Meanwhile, Galagodaatte Gnanasar, a radical Buddhist monk accused of instigating hate crimes against Muslims, has won a seat. AGENCIES


July: Wickremesinghe elected president amidst crippling economic, political crisis

July 21, 2022: The Times of India

Colombo: Sri Lankan MPs voted in acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new president Wednesday, hoping his long experience in government can help pull the country out of a crippling economic and political crisis.

The six-time prime minister won 134 votes in the 225-member parliament, despite public anger with the ruling elite after months of severe shortages of fuel, food and medicines. A popular uprising ousted his predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Widely seen as a proxy of the once-powerful Rajapaksa family, Wickremesinghe denied being close to the clan. “I am not a friend of the Rajapaksas. I am a friend of the pe- ople,” said Wickremesinghe. MPs of SLPP, the party of Rajapaksas, voted in favour of him.


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