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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 January 2019

Sri Lanka reinstates Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister

Mr Wickremesinghe was fired by the president in October over an alleged assassination plot

Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reinstated on Sunday. Reuters
Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reinstated on Sunday. Reuters

Sri Lanka swore in Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister on Sunday, reinstating the leader who was fired by President Maithripala Sirisena over an assassination plot.

The reinstating of the prime minister ends a political crisis, which started in October.

Mr Wickremesinghe was fired by Mr Sirisena over an alleged plot to assassinate the president.

The South Asian island country plunged into instability after Mr Sirisena replaced Mr Wickremesinghe with Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was then sacked twice by parliament. Mr Rajapaksa resigned on Saturday as a government shutdown loomed.

His son Namal tweeted on Sunday his congratulations to Mr Wickremesinghe, saying he hopes he will be able to address the issues of Sri Lankans "more than Western interests".

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Read more:

A shadowy plot to assassinate the president was at the heart of Sri Lanka's political crisis

Sri Lanka's Tamils fear bloody return of 'Lord of the Rings' Mahinda Rajapaksa

Sri Lankan press freedom crushed following Mahinda Rajapaksa’s return

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Mr Rajapaksa held a multi-religious service at his home on Saturday where he signed a letter backing down from the post of prime minister controversially conferred on him on October 26.

Hours after the receiving blessings from the clergy, the 73-year-old ex-president vowed to make a comeback at local council elections.

"There is no doubt at all that the people who stood by us since 2015 will continue to support us in the future as well," he said addressing his close associates. "We will bring the forces opposed to the country down to their knees by organising the people."

President Maithripala Sirisena triggered the political turmoil by sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with his flamboyant former foe, Mr Rajapaksa.

But Mr Wickremesinghe refused to step down, insisting that his sacking was illegal. The crisis left the Indian Ocean nation of 21 million people with two men claiming the premiership.

Mr Rajapaksa was then defeated in a no-confidence motion on November 14.

However, the following day, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya ruled that he would recognise neither man as prime minister, leaving Sri Lanka effectively without a government.

The country was then heading for a government shutdown as parliament failed to approve spending for 2019 and credit rating agencies downgraded its debt amid fears of a sovereign default.

There were doubts about the country's ability to repay $1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) due to bondholders by January 10 without a legally constituted administration.

Mr Rajapaksa's son Namal had announced on Friday that his father — who as president ended Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009 amid allegations of grave rights abuses — would throw in the towel "to ensure stability".

Mr Rajapaksa's decision came after the Supreme Court confirmed that he could not exercise the powers of a prime minister until he proved his legitimacy, which without enough support in parliament was impossible.

In a major climbdown, Mr Sirisena agreed on Friday to reinstate Mr Wickremesinghe on Sunday despite previously insisting he would never in his lifetime reappoint him as prime minister.

Updated: December 16, 2018 03:44 PM

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