Sri Lankan President Maithrapala Sirisena dissolved Parliament on Friday midnight and announced a snap election on Jan 5 after it became clear that his Prime Minister appointee Mahinda Rajapakse does not have majority in the House.
The President said the new Parliament would meet on Jan 17 after the elections.
The President's decision, came days after he sacked United National Party Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and appointed former President and leader of the breakaway Sri Lanka Freedom Party chief Mahinda Rajapakse as the new Prime Minister in what was described as a constitutional coup that ran into rough with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya refusing to recognise him.
The President decided for fresh elections after his own United People’s Freedom Alliance’s spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters a few days ago that Rajapakse, whose alliance has 105 members in the 225-member House would be short of majority by eight unless he was able to get the support of “cross-over” legislators from the UNP.
But that was more than offset by the opposition from the leftist Janata Vimukta Perumuna (People’s Liberation Front) which has six members, and which termed the sacking of Ranil Wickremasinghe as unconstitutional and as an attempt by Sirisena to consolidate his power grab.
The JVP general secretary Telvin Silva has said the dissolution of Parliament is illegal and unconstitutional. The 16-member Tamil National Alliance felt it is essentially a power struggle among the Sinhala ruling and the Tamils have little to choose between Ranil and Rajapakse.
This despite the fact that Ranil as Prime Minister signed a ceasefire agreement with the LTTE in 2002 which lasted three years. It was the longest truce in the 30 years of armed struggle for independent Eelam which failed in the final battle of 2009 prosecuted as Mahinda Rajapkse as President and in which LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran went down fighting.
India stayed away from the current crisis as it was instrumental in bringing Sirisena as a consensus candidate which enabled him to defeat Rajapakse when he sought a third term in 2015. Though Rajapakse and the Sri Lankan army has been accused by Amnesty and other international groups of human rights violations, India had to work with him as it had pumped millions of dollars into the country for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction after the war..
It distanced itself from Rajapakse after he moved closer to China, a matter of growing concern as it affects our strategic interests, and failed on his promise to devolve greater autonomy to Tamils.
The latest coup came about after Ranil visited New Delhi and called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to complain that Indian projects in Sri Lanka were being stalled by Sirisena.
Though India is not pleased with Sirisena either, the outcome of the coming Parliament elections will not affect his position as executive President. He has another two years to go. But if Ranil stages a comeback, it will lead another round of battle between the President and Prime Minister.