Sri Lankan President Says He Won't Rename Wickremesinghe as Leader

(Bloomberg) -- Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he definitely won’t reappoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister even if the ousted leader were able to show a majority in the island’s legislature.

Contrasting leadership styles and Wickremesinghe’s habit of unilateral decision-making make it impossible to work toward uplifting the economy, Sirisena told the Foreign Correspondents’ Association in Colombo Sunday. Wickremesinghe has a neo-liberal economic view that Sirisena doesn’t agree with, the president said.

Sri Lankan President Says He Won't Rename Wickremesinghe as Leader

Sirisena said he would be willing to appoint a new prime minister from Wickremesinghe’s party if there was a majority in parliament. The president said he won’t stop opponents of his appointed Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, from forging a majority in parliament as long as they follow parliamentary procedures.

Sri Lanka has been embroiled in a constitutional crisis since Oct. 26, when Sirisena unexpectedly fired Wickremesinghe, who had served since 2015 in a unity government with the president. Sirisena originally suspended parliament, then tried to dissolve the legislature entirely for fresh elections, a move that was eventually blocked.

Since then, there have been several attempts by Wickremesinghe’s party and allies to oust Rajapaksa, with two house votes going against the new prime minister. Sirisena has called for a third vote.

On Friday, 121 members in the 225-seat legislature voted through an electronic system to endorse a cross-party parliamentary committee named by House Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Rajapaksa supporters walked out of the chamber in protest because their demand for a majority representation on the panel wasn’t granted.

Sirisena said in comments Sunday that he plans to set up a presidential commission to investigate corruption allegations during Wickremesinghe’s term as prime minister. He said worries of an economic collapse because of political instability were exaggerated and he expects political uncertainty to be cleared up, either through a no-confidence vote in Parliament or a Supreme Court decision.

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