'I will remain Lankan PM, naming Rajapaksa unconstitutional': Ranil Wickremesinghe


It remains to be seen whether Lanka, under its new dispensation, distances itself politically from New Delhi and moves closer to China.

A letter signed by the President has been sent to Ranil Wickremesinghe informing him that he has been moved from the post of Prime Minister.

President Sirisena's decision also plunged the island into an unprecedented constitutional crisis with the Speaker saying he was seeking legal advice and would announce Saturday if he recognises Rajapakse as the new prime minister.

Wickremesinghe told reporters today that the United National Front has urged Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to convene Parliament to resolve the issue.

Relations between Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) and Sirisensa's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) have been strained recently after Sirisensa criticised Wickremesinghe's for not adequately investigating an assassination plot against the president.

Traditional ally India was angry over Rajapakse allowing Chinese submarines to dock at Colombo during his previous year in office as president. Sri Lanka almost faced economic sanctions from the West over Rajapakse's brutal military crackdown on the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

However members of the Wickremesinhe's party said maintained that President Sirisena had suspended parliament because Rajapaksa did not have the required support.

In a telephonic conversation with a TV station, Wickremesinghe said: "I will continue to be the prime minister".

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Speaking to jubilant supporters outside his Colombo home, Rajapakse called on Wickremesinghe to step down.

Wickremesinghe's views were echoed by Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera, who in a tweet said: "This is an anti democratic coup".

Parliamentary officials said the president prorogued the house till November 16. In April, Wickremesinghe successfully defeated a no trust motion in parliament engineered by Sirisena with backing from Rajapaksa.

However, his new Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party won local council elections in February and he had been attempting to engineer a dramatic comeback ahead of presidential elections slated for 2019.

Rights groups say tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the campaign, but Rajapakse has refused to acknowledge any abuses in the civil war.

Despite being cold shouldered by the West, he is a charismatic leader hugely popular among the majority Sinhalese community for crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels who were known for their trade mark suicide bombings.

The legacy of the conflict has proved a divisive topic in parliament.

Rajapakse's hardline government was also accused of corruption and murdering political opponents. They resumed broadcasting Saturday and were supporting Rajapakse. Rajapaksa and his family are facing several cases of corruption and financial irregularities.