Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who lost badly in his tussle for power with Ranil Wickremesinghe, is not ready to bury the hatchet with the triumphant Prime Minister, saying they do not see eye to eye on a number of issues, including on the release of LTTE political prisoners.
An embarrassed Sirisena, whose controversial actions plunged the island nation into an unprecedented political turmoil for nearly two months, reinstated Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister on Sunday, after sacking him on October 26 and appointing ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place and also dissolving Parliament, some 20 months early. Sirisena was left with no other option following two separate decisions by the Supreme Court, which nullified his illegal moves.
Addressing the members of his United National Front, Sirisena, 67, reiterated that he does not like Wickremesinghe, despite having to reappoint him as the Prime Minister, Colombo Gazette reported.
He said that there were several issues between him and Wickremesinghe, 69, since 2015. He accused Wickremesinghe of abusing his powers as Prime Minister before Wickremesinghe was sacked in October. Sirisena claimed that Wickremesinghe even usurped some powers of the President.
He accused Wickremesinghe of failing to follow his instructions not to arrest monks and members of the military, the report said.
The President insisted that if members of the Sri Lankan military are to be arrested for committing war crimes, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam members and their supporters overseas must also be arrested for the same.
Sirisena also said that if the former LTTE (Tamil Tiger) cadres are to be released on the basis they are political prisoners then the military officers in prison must also be freed. President Sirisena’s prime ministerial appointee Rajapaksa led the military campaign to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 when he was the president of Sri Lanka.
He said he and Wickremesinghe differed on several differences since 2015.
Sirisena said he offered to reappoint Wickremesinghe as the prime minister as he respects parliamentary traditions and democracy.
“A statement I made to say that I would not appoint Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister is a personal view of mine. That is my personal political view, but as a leader who respects Parliamentary traditions and democracy, I decided to invite Wickremesinghe and offered him the premiership, the President said.
President Sirisena claimed that the power to name a Prime Minister is vested with the Executive President according to the Constitution.
“Considering the request of the 117 MPs, they being the majority in Parliament and I being a civilised leader who respects Parliamentary democracy and traditions, I agreed with their decision,” he said.
Ex-strongman Rajapaksa resigned from the post on Saturday, a day after the apex court refused to stay another court order restraining him from acting as the prime minister.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said abolishing the executive Presidency and bringing about a political solution will be part of the agenda of his new Government.
In a special statement after being appointed as Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe said that discussions are ongoing with a number of political parties in respect to abolishing the executive Presidency.
“We will have discussions with the Tamil National Alliance (Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna to bring about a political solution in which all citizens can live in harmony in a unitary state,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that his party is to form a broad alliance to protect democracy and it is only through a democratic environment in which the voice of the people is considered and the rights of the people are protected.
He also urged all sides to forget all differences and join hands with him in the broad alliance, for the sake of the motherland, democracy, rights of the people and to bring about a free country for the unborn generation.
He said the Prime Minister should have the maximum confidence of Parliament, Colombo Page reported.
Without a majority support a prime minister cannot bring forward the country. Similarly, the prime minister and the ministers should vacate their posts when a no confidence motion was passed in Parliament against them, Wickremesinghe said, referring to the repeated no trust votes against disputed prime minister Rajapaksa.
“In terms of the Constitution no one has the power to dissolve Parliament until four and half years have lapsed after a Parliament is formed. It can only be done on a resolution passed by two-thirds majority in Parliament,” the prime minister said.
He recalled that on the day he was illegally sacked by President Sirisena, he had said that the fight was for the sake of democracy, justice, protection of the Constitution, adherence of the rule of the law and civilized and moral conduct of society.
“I also said that we would win this fight,” Wickremesinghe said.
“Even today I am telling the same thing. I will tell the same tomorrow too. I will abide my word. I will do what I say. I say only what I can do,” he added.