One dead in Sri Lanka amidst a constitutional crisis

Protesters in the Sri Lankan capital asking the president to reconvene parliament and settle the issue of appointment of Prime Minister there. Image via GroundViews Facebook page. October 30, 2018.

On 26 October, the political situation in Sri Lanka began to deteriorate when incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the former president and opposition Member of Parliament Mahinda Rajapaksa prime minister — a move that ousted the sitting PM Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The ensuing power struggle between ousted PM Wickremesinghe and the newly appointed PM Rajapaksa has led to the death of one protester who was shot when the bodyguard of a sacked minister fired at a crowd in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

A constitutional crisis and the death of a protester

The sacking of Wickremesinghe has led to a constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka with many questioning the legitimacy of the President's actions.

After PM Wickremesinghe was sacked, President Sirisena suspended the country’s parliament for three weeks and withdrew Wickremesinghe's personal security details and vehicles.

What has ensued is a power struggle between the newly appointed PM and the recently ousted PM who both believe in the legitimacy of their position. After the news broke, supporters of the two men took to the streets — eventually leading to the death of one protester.

On 28 October, the President dissolved the cabinet of ministers and supporters of  Mahinda Rajapaksa began blocking ministers from the old cabinet from entering their offices. That same evening, a mob prevented ousted cabinet member Arjuna Ranatunga from entering his office, leading Ranatunga's bodyguard to fire live rounds into the crowd.

According to the police, one 34-year-old person died and two others were wounded. The guard was immediately arrested. On 30 October, the police also arrested minister Ranatunga over the shooting incident.

Protests in the capital

Hearing about his removal, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, reiterated that he had no intention of leaving his post.

Wickremesinghe also said that at least 128 MPs in the 225-member assembly have signed to call for an immediate reconvening of parliament. Hundreds of Wickremesinghe supporters showed their support by gathering outside his official home waving party flags and denouncing President Sirisena and newly appointed PM Rajapaksa.

Meanwhile, Rajapaksa’s supporters occupied the state-owned Rupavahini television studios by force because of the station's believed support for Wickremesinghe.

Calls to restore Democracy

On 30 October, thousands took to the streets of Colombo to demand that Parliament be reconvened in order to resolve the ongoing political crisis:

While the ousted PM saw the protest as an implied call for his reinstatement, other groups saw it as an opportunity to speak out against what they saw as the “proroguing of Parliament”. What remains to be seen is whether or not the next days and weeks will bring more violence.

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