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Mahinda sworn in as PM

Mahinda sworn in as PM

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena Friday sacked his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed former president Mahinda Rajapakse as the new premier in a dramatic political development on Friday after his party abruptly quit the ruling coalition.

A letter signed by the President has been sent to Ranil Wickremesinghe informing him that he has been moved from the post of Prime Minister.

The sudden political development in Sri Lanka has come after Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP) chose to leave the coalition government whose constituent party was Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Reacting sharply to the development, dislodged premier Wickremesinghe termed the swearing in of Mahinda Rajapaksa as new prime minister as "illegal and unconstitutional". "This is an anti democratic coup", finance minister Mangala Samaraweera wrote on Twitter shortly after the appointment was announced. The unity government was formed in 2015 when Sirisena was elected President with Wickremesinghe's support, ending a almost decade-long rule by Rajapaksa.

In 2015, Rajapaksa sought his third term in office in the presidential election held on Jan 8, while the opposition supported his former aide Maithripala Sirisena as the joint opposition candidate.

Sirisena is also believed to have been behind a failed attempt to impeach Wickremesinghe in April.

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Traditionally, Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party has espoused left-of-centre views and opposed economic liberalisation, while Wickremesinghe's United National Party leans right and has championed reforms to open up Sri Lanka's economy.

Within minutes of the statement, Rajapaksa was invited by Sirisena to take oath as the Prime Minister. However, both allies suffered heavy defeats in the local elections in February, which were seen as a referendum on the ruling alliance.

Members of Wickremesinghe's party must "respect democracy, respect the country and respect the law", the ex-president said through a loudhailer from a balcony.

In a telephonic conversation with a TV station, Wickremesinghe said: "I will continue to be the prime minister".

His government also pledged justice for those accused of committing atrocities in Sri Lanka's civil war during Rajapaksa's rule.

The move ends a more than 3-year-old coalition government that was formed by two bitterly opposed political parties on a promise to tackle corruption and wipe out alleged financial irregularities under the previous government, led by Rajapaksa. Several of Rajapakse's close family and associates face corruption prosecutions.


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