Sri Lanka political crisis: MEA says India “closely following” developments in Colombo

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New Delhi | October 28, 2018 1:05 PM

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena has suspended parliament, deepening political turmoil after he sacked the country’s prime minister.

sri lanka, sri lanka politica crisis, mahinda rajapaksaA man walks past a poster of Sri Lanka’s newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on a main road in Colombo. (Reuters)

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena has suspended parliament, deepening political turmoil after he sacked the country’s prime minister, leading to a major turmoil in the island nation. Tensions have mounted after the president’s dismissal of rival Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was replaced by Mahinda Rajapakse.

Agency reports quoting Parliamentary officials said the president had suspended all meetings of the 225-member house until November 16.

The political crisis is on similar lines as that of Maldives recently, and has now caused international concern.

Responding to media queries regarding the developments in Sri Lanka, the official spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs, Raveesh Kumar said, “India is closely following the recent political developments in Sri Lanka. As a democracy and a close friendly neighbour, we hope that democratic values and the constitutional process will be respected. We will continue to extend our developmental assistance to the friendly people of Sri Lanka.”

Sharing her views with FE Online, Padma Rao Sundarji, senior foreign correspondent, said, “It was only a question of whether he would return to power as president or prime minister, given that constitutional changes in the interim – which Rajapaksa has questioned – imply he may be debarred from a third term as president, even if he wins the next election in January 2020.”

According to her the Sri Lankan Parliament’s composition is changing with possible crossovers.

There is a question mark hanging over the legality of the sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe if the parliament has the sole power of naming or sacking a prime minister. “On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that President Sirisena would have made this move without weighing the legalities and – also – legal loopholes, if any. Second, cross-overs from various parties of the existing SLFP-UNP to the Joint Opposition have been taking place frequently, so Wickremesinghe’s confidence that parliament – where his UNP is in the majority – will back him, may be misplaced – time will tell,” Rao who is the author of Sri Lanka: the New Country, points out.

However, according to Rao, as far as India is considered, Sri Lanka’s case is more complicated than the Maldives, because there is a full-fledged democracy, not a dictatorship in place. “The response from India is certainly guarded but between the lines it also says that as long as constitution and democracy are respected, India will go along with continuing assistance to the ‘close friendly neighbour’ and the ‘friendly people’ of Sri Lanka. I find the ‘friendly’ very significant and the repetition of it.”

Adding, “South Block is well aware that chauvinistic, anti-India forces in Sri Lanka are already seeing an India hand behind these developments. Modi’s government, for all its reticence in Neighborhood First issues so far, seems to have undertaken a cost-benefit analysis of the consequences of flirting with domestic affairs in neighbouring countries (see Nepal / China / Madhesi) and determined to turn over a new leaf.”

As for the bilateral relations between the two, both sides seem interested in re-calibrating bilateral ties.

According to AFP report, the US and European ambassadors in Colombo have called on all sides to abide by law.

Wickremesinghe’s party has the largest number of seats but lost its majority shortly before his dismissal on Friday, when the president’s United People’s Freedom Alliance announced it was walking out of the governing coalition.

This is the second time that a president has ousted Wickremesinghe from office. In 2004, just two and a half years into a six-year term, the then president sacked him and called snap elections.

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