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Sirisena cuts PM’s duties amid ongoing political crisis in Sri Lanka

The unity government of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) 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.

world Updated: Mar 28, 2018 23:14 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India, Colombo
Maithripala Sirisena,Ranil Wickremesinghe,Mahinda Rajapaksa
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, on September 19, 2017. (Reuters File)

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday reduced the responsibilities of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the backdrop of the ongoing political turmoil in the country.

The unity government of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) 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 Prime Minister, has been brought under the Finance Ministry by Sirisena.

The changes, which sources said were against the wishes of the Prime Minister, were published in a gazette notification issued today.

The move came ahead of the next week’s no confidence motion against Wickremesinghe handed by the Joint Opposition of Rajapaksa. It is to be debated on April 4.

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.

Wickremesinghe’s handpicked governor of the Central Bank Arjuna Mahendran’s son-in-law’s firm was accused of committing a fraud in Bond deals.

Mahendran was sacked by Sirisena in 2016 and a Commission appointed had ruled that Mahendran’s son-in-law’s firm had made undue profits due to Mahendran’s action of providing them with inside information.

Mahendran, a Singapore national, has been issued with an arrest warrant while his son-in-law and the CEO of the firm have been in custody since early February.

Rajapaksa’s new political party, Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP), defeated Sirisena’s SLFP and Wickremesinghe’s UNP, winning 225 councils or two-thirds of the 340 councils which went to polls in February.

After registering the landslide win, Rajapaksa was quick to demand a snap general election which is scheduled to be held after August 2020.

Since the defeat, Sirisena has been seeking the removal of Wickremesinghe as the prime minister, attempting to form his own SLFP government, analysts have said.

However, in the absence of required numbers, Sirisena has to accept Wickremesinghe, they said.

Wickremesinghe has said that the result of the local body polls was a wake up call for the government.

First Published: Mar 28, 2018 22:08 IST