Ranil Wickremesinghe being sworn in again as Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday - Pic by President Media
Ranil Wickremesinghe retakes oaths as Prime Minister in closed door ceremony before President
Promises to establish normalcy and continue development agenda
Praises Parliament and Judiciary for their commitment to protect democracy in the country
President faults UNP Government for corruption during last three years in critical speech after oath-taking ceremony
Sajith Premadasa offers olive branch and Buddhist quote
By Chathuri Dissanayake
Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Prime Minister before President Maithripala Sirisena, bringing an end to a seven-week-long stand-off with the President, in what signalled an uneasy truce between the two sides.
Wickremesinghe took oaths at the auspicious time of 11.16a.m.at the Presidential Secretariat before a sombre President Sirisena, flanked by his wife Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe and a handful of party seniors.
His fifth time on the job, Wickremesinghe, addressing jubilant supporters at Temple Trees immediately after his swearing-in ceremony, pledged to establish normalcy in the country and drive the development agenda forward. “We are now committed to establishing normalcy in the country and then continuing development,” he said, speaking to the cheering crowd.
“The crisis happened when we were in the middle of our development agenda.Not only did all work stop, but the country was going backward.”
Promising to uplift the economic and social standards of the country, Wickremesinghe appreciated the commitment of the Parliament and the Judiciary to carry out their duty lawfully and protectthe country’s democratic tradition. Commending the work done by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, the Prime Minister said that Parliament worked to defeat anti-democratic forces.
“The interpretations of the Constitution have further established the democratic freedoms of this country,” he said.
However, the President showed no willingness to reconcile, launching into a strong criticism of the UNP Government’s conduct during the last three years during the meeting that followed the closed door swearing-in ceremony.
Defending his earlier refusal to appoint Wickremesinghe, Sirisena had told the UNP seniors who were present at the meeting that he was only making the appointment due to the confidence motion in Wickremesinghe passed in Parliament with 117 votes.
A statement issued by the President’s Media on the meeting also noted that Sirisena justified his actions on 26 October and the subsequent decision to dissolve Parliament saying it was taken in good faith for the welfare of the country following legal consultations.
During the hour-long speech, Sirisena brought up a number of issues in relation to the three-year UNP rule including the bond scam, sources present at the meeting told Daily FT.
“The President, referring to Arjuna Mahendran’s appointment, blamed Ranil Wickremesinghe for the decision saying he signed off on the appointment on the Prime Minister’s insistence. Referring to incidents that happened in relation to the Central Bank, he pinned the blame on the Prime Minister,” the source said.
The President, finding fault with the appointments made by the Constitutional Council, said that his recommendations had been ignored while junior officers had been appointed to the positions, sources said.
Further, Sirisena has also found fault with the arrests of army personnel accused of various allegations, noting that he would only consent to the release of Tamil political prisoners if the military personnel were released as well, a UNF member present at the meeting told Daily FT.
The President, who claimed that the arrest of military personnel was done under pressure from foreign forces, said that the Wickremesinghe-led Government should have insisted on arresting LTTE diaspora members operating in those countries, the source said.
A statement released by the President’s Media also noted that Sirisena accused the UNP of attempting to kill him Gaddafi style.
However, throughout the meeting Wickremesinghe was said to have been stoically silent, signalling his Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa to speak on his behalf at the end of the meeting.
Premadasa, who noted that President was appointed to the position with the support of the UNP, told Sirisena that he had no mandate to work with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna led by Mahinda Rajapaksa,who was defeated in 2015.
Assuring the President that the UNP would not be party to any impeachment process against him, Premadasa extended an olive branch to work together in the future, quoting from Buddhist scripture.
In a Twitter update, Dr. Harsha De Silva, who was present at the meeting, praised Premadasa’s reply to Sirisena’s critical address.
“@sajithpremadasa makes fantastic reply to critical address by President @MaithripalaS ‘NahiVerenaVerani, SammantidhaKudacancam, AverenaccaSammanti, EsahammoSanantano’. Hatred never ceases through hatred, but through love alone they cease. Very proud! @RW_UNP @officialunp,” De Silva tweeted.