Former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa becomes Sri Lanka's main opposition leader

Colombo, Sri LankaUpdated: Dec 18, 2018, 06:09 PM IST
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File photo of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Photograph:(AFP)

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Mahinda Rajapaksa, 73, replaced veteran Tamil leader of the main Tamil party R Sampanthan who held the position from 2015.

Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday became Sri Lanka's main opposition leader in Parliament, days after he resigned as prime minister after clinging on to power for nearly two months, amidst the unprecedented political turmoil in the country.

Rajapaksa, 73, replaced veteran Tamil leader of the main Tamil party R Sampanthan who held the position from 2015.

His appointment was announced by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in Parliament which met for the first time after the reinstatement of Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister that ended the 51-day political standoff in the country.

M A Sumanthiran of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress raised objections against Rajapaksa's appointment. They claimed that Rajapaksa has ceased to be a member of Parliament because he had joined another political party recently.

Rajapaksa, by obtaining the membership of the Sri Lanka People's Party (SLPP), left the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) from which he was elected to Parliament in 2015.

Speaker Jayasuriya asked Sumanthiran to make a written submission on his complaint against Rajapaksa so that a select committee could go into details.

On Sunday, President Maithripala Sirisena, whose controversial actions plunged the island nation into an unprecedented political turmoil for nearly two months, reinstated Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, after sacking him on October 26 and appointing former president 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.

The president said he offered to reappoint Wickremesinghe as the prime minister as he respects parliamentary traditions and democracy.

Ex-strongman Rajapaksa resigned from the post of prime minister on Saturday, a day after the apex court refused to stay another court order restraining him from acting as the prime minister.