The President’s elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa controversially resigned on Monday after violence erupted across the country…writes SUSITHA FERNANDO
Setting several world records, Sri Lanka’s veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the 26th Prime Minister of Indian Ocean island nation, which has been crippled with its worst-ever economic crisis.
Holding the office for a record-breaking 6th occasion, Wickremesinghe was sworn in as PM by his rival party leader and President Gotabaya Rajapaska. He also becomes the world’s first premier to run a government with just one seat in the Parliament.
Amidst the ongoing crisis, President Rajapaksa invited the opposition parties to join to form an all-party government.
The main opposition United People’s Power, led by Sajith Premadasa and the Marxist party, National People’s Power, led by Anura Kumara Disannayake, refused to form a government until President Rajapaksa resigned.
The President’s elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa controversially resigned on Monday after violence erupted across the country when a group of his supporters carried out violent attacks on peaceful protesters demanding the government step down amidst the severe financial crisis.
“(British PM Winston) Churchill had only four members backing him in 1939. How he became the Prime Minister because of the crisis, I have done the same,” the newly-appointed PM Wickremesinghe reporters who questioned his moral right to become the PM without a majority in the parliament.
“I will make a government with the participation of all the parties,” Wickremesinghe assured as as he was leaving a Buddhist temple in Colombo after participating at religious ceremonies.
“Do you want to suffer without fuel and gas while engaging in petty politics or find solutions to the current crisis?” he questioned the journalist and said that he would work to overcome the current crisis.
Ex-PM Mahinda Rajapaksa was one of the firsts to wish Wickremesighe.
In a Twitter message, Rajapaksa said: “Congratulations to the newly appointed Prime Minister. I wish you all the best as you navigate these troubled times”.
Wishing the newly-appointed PM, the Indian High Commission in Colombo stated that it “hopes for political stability and looks forward to working with the Government of Sri Lanka formed in accordance with democratic processes pursuant to the swearing in of Hon’ble @RW_UNP as the Prime Minister of #SriLanka. India’s commitment to the people of #SriLanka will continue.”
US Ambassador Julie Chung, in a tweet, said: “Look forward to working w/ @RW_UNP.
His appointment as PM, and the quick formation of an inclusive government, are first steps to addressing the crisis & promoting stability. We encourage meaningful progress at the IMF & long-term solutions that meet the needs of all Sri Lankans”.
Entering politics in 1970 and becoming the then youngest member of the Parliament in 1977, Wickremesinghe became the PM for the first time in 1993 under the then President D.B. Wijetunga, then he was elected the PM in 2001 under Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge.
Again in 2015 when Maithripala Sirisena formed a 100-day government, Wickremesinghe was appointed the PM. At the subsequent 2015 general election, his party won the election and he was elected the PM. But his alliance with President Sirisena came to an end when Sirisena replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaska for 52 days. But Wickremsinghe sworn in as the PM again after the Supreme Court removed Rajapaksa.
However, Wickremesinghe had not ruled for a complete five year term in any of his previous tenures as PM.
In the 2020 general election, his party divided over leadership dispute and deputy leader Premadasa broke away with a majority of the MPs. Wickermesinghe could not win a single seat at the election but he entered the parliament using the national list seat received based on the total votes his party scored.