Sri Lanka verdict: What happens now to Sirisena, Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe?

WION Web Team
Colombo, Sri Lanka Published: Dec 13, 2018, 06:49 PM(IST)

From left: Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Photograph:( WION Web Team )

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Today's verdict also means that no snap parliamentary election could be called by Sirisena at least until February 2020.

In a landmark judgement, Sri Lanka's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that President Maithripala Sirisena's sacking of parliament last month was illegal.

Delivering the judgement to a packed courtroom, Chief Justice Nalin Perera said the judges agreed that Sirisena violated the constitution when he dissolved the legislature prematurely.

Here's a look at what the Supreme Court's ruling means for the key players in Sri Lanka's political crisis.

Maithripala Sirisena:

The Sri Lankan President triggered the unprecedented political crisis on October 26 when he fired Wickremesinghe and appointed the contentious former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse in his place.

Sirisena then dissolved parliament on November 9 despite provisions that he could not dissolve the legislature until it completes four and a half years out of its five-year term which ends in August 2020.

Now that the country's Supreme Court has termed his move unconstitutional, Sirisena faces the prospect of impeachment proceedings starting against him. Sacked PM Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) could move to impeach the President - he has the backing of 106 parliamentarians in the 225-member parliament as against 95 for Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa combine.

An impeachment motion, however, requires two-third votes in Parliament, and Wickremesinghe commands only a simple majority. So, the scenario looks highly unlikely for now.

Today's verdict also means that no snap parliamentary election could be called by Sirisena at least until February 2020.

Ranil Wickremesinghe:

Wickremesinghe was unceremoniously ousted from the post of Sri Lanka's prime minister after President Sirisena sacked him in October and installed former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place.

Wickremesinghe held his ground without leaving his official residence as he claimed his dismissal was illegal. He said the 19th amendment to the Constitution had made Sirisena powerless to remove a sitting prime minister.

He has won three trust votes in parliament so far. Rajapaksa has so far failed to prove his majority on the floor of the House. Though Wickremesinghe's UNP had the backing of 106 parliamentarians, 117 out of 225 lawmakers in parliament voted to pass a confidence motion in his leadership in the latest trust vote on Wednesday.

And with the Supreme Court also giving a major setback to the President, UNP claims that Sirisena will be left with no choice but to reappoint Wickremesinghe as PM because he would be the only person who commands the confidence in the House.

Mahinda Rajapaksa:

Former Sri Lankan president and pro-China leader Rajapaksa was brought in all of a sudden by President Sirisena after sharp personal differences with Wickremesinghe, but he has so far failed to prove majority in parliament.

Sirisena even sacked parliament when it appeared that Rajapaksa would not be able to muster the support of 113 MPs to gain a simple majority in the 225-member House.

He has so far continued in office with Sirisena's backing despite petitions being filed by mawmakers, asking the court to order him and his ministers to stop functioning.

But with the Supreme Court giving a major blow to Sirisena, his chances of continuing in office appears to be untenable.

After the Supreme Court verdict on Thursday, his son and Member of Parliament in Sri Lanka, Namal Rajapaksa, said on Twitter, "We respect the decision of #lka's Supreme Court, despite the fact that we have reservations regarding its interpretation...We will continue to stand alongside those calling for a parliamentary election, without which there is no real justice for the people of #lka".

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