Ranil Wickremesinghe tipped to become Sri Lank’s crisis-time prime minister?

On the calls for the abolition of the executive presidency, a demand forwarded by many parties, President Rajapaksa said it will be considered, and “with the new government & their potential to stabilize the country, we will have an opportunity to discuss this & work towards a common consensus.” 

May 12, 2022
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Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s former prime minister

Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s former prime minister, could once again be appointed to the post as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa vowed to end the national crisis and political vacuum within a week. Both leaders held a closed-door meeting on Wednesday regarding the formation of a new government.

“I am taking steps to form a new government to control the current situation, to prevent the country from falling into anarchy,” President Rajapaksa said in a televised address on Wednesday, hours after the governor of the central bank warned political parties of dire consequences if the ongoing political instability continues for long.   

Sri Lanka currently has no government after Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign on Monday amid widespread violence, sparked after his supporters attacked anti-government protestors in the capital Colombo.

The five-time former prime minister, Ranil is currently the lone member of parliament from his United National Party (UNP) and is known for sharing a good working relationship with President Rajapaksa. During the entire crisis, unlike other leaders, Wickremesinghe avoided taking extreme positions and instead kept asking parties to work together to find solutions.

He emerged as the frontrunner as the crisis-time prime minister after the leader of the opposition, Sajith Premadasa, from the SJB party refused to accept the position under the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a precondition that many of his senior party leaders also criticized.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, President Rajapaksa said besides the formation of a newly empowered government “steps will be taken to amend the Constitution to re-enact the contents of the 19th Amendment to empower the Parliament further.”

On the calls for the abolition of the executive presidency, a demand forwarded by many parties, President Rajapaksa said it will be considered, and “with the new government & their potential to stabilize the country, we will have an opportunity to discuss this & work towards a common consensus.” 

Significantly, the move is yet another step by President Rajapaksa in the direction of reversing changes introduced by his own government in the last two years. In 2020, the government passed the 20th Amendment, which significantly increased the executive power of the president at the cost of parliament.   

Mahinda Rajapaksa, prior to his resignation, had also suggested making changes in the Constitution to empower parliament.

Consultations for the appointment of the prime minister fast-tracked after the governor of the central bank warned that the economy may collapse beyond redemption if the situation continued for long. Sri Lanka, he said, didn’t have enough usable reserves to cover a week’s imports. 

(SAM)

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