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Democracy reigns


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The announcement of MP Mahinda Rajapaksa making way for a Prime Minister that commands majority in Parliament is a vindication of Sri Lanka’s democratic credentials and the millions of people who stood by the rule of law during seven bleak weeks. 

Since 26 October the dawn of Friday is awaited with trepidation. It was on a Friday that President Maithripala Sirisena removed sitting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed MP Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was on a Friday he issued a Gazette dissolving Parliament. But it would seem that good things can also happen on a Friday. The stage had already been set by the Supreme Court, which decided on Thursday that Parliament cannot be dissolved until four and a half years are over. Then the Supreme Court decided it would keep the Interim Order issued by the Court of Appeal intact but would take up the petition on 16, 17 and 18 January. 

Faced with the prospect of a non-functioning Prime Minister and Cabinet, President Sirisena and MP Rajapaksa were effectively backed into a corner. During the last seven weeks, they tried everything in their capacity to hang onto power. It was a frightening spree of shredding the Constitution by abusing the Executive power and using nationalism to justify their actions. These actions included rejecting the results of two votes on a no confidence motion, multiple other votes, boycotting Parliament, and holding Cabinet meetings when its legality was under question. 

President Sirisena and MP Rajapaksa refused to give way even after Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating was downgraded, currency depreciation quickened, tourism cancellations increased, Rs. 7.1 billion flowed out from stocks and Rs. 34.1 billion from securities. They turned a deaf ear to the economic cost of what they were doing even though Sri Lanka had to ready to repay over $ 1 billion in debt in January but had no functioning Finance Minister or Budget. 

Therefore Rajapaksa’s grandstanding by issuing a special statement, described by some as an “address to the nation” is both incorrect and misleading. Only the Head of State has the authority to address the nation and a ‘resignation’ after Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had clearly stated he does not recognise a Prime Minister in Parliament is simply a continuation of the selfish and misguided actions that began on 26 October and should not be humoured. 

Already Rajapaksa supporters are at work speaking of non-existent ‘traitors’. They have already begun twisting the landmark decision given by the Supreme Court as an effort by the United National Party (UNP) to avoid an election. It will only be a matter of time before the divisive anti-minority diatribes begin. 

The last seven weeks have been a beacon of hope to people who were afraid that Sri Lanka was on the cusp of returning to the days of suppression that masqueraded as stability under Rajapaksa. Clearly, the fight is not over. Rajapaksa may have been beaten back into the shadows for now but he has no intention of staying there. The UNP cannot squander this opportunity as they did in 2015 by dragging their feet on investigations, including corruption committed in the last three years, reconciliation, and economic reform. The window for action has shrunk to a sliver and it is imperative that the UNP now fulfil their pledges and meet the aspirations of the people. If the UNP fails once more, they will be responsible for all of Sri Lanka being pushed into darkness. 


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