Sri Lankas disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa signs his resignation letter at his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Source: PTI Via AP)

Rajapaksa Resigns As Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister

After clinging on to power for nearly two months, Sri Lanka’s ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena in a controversial move, resigned on Saturday to end the political turmoil and pave way for the return of ousted premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The 73-year-old signed a letter of resignation during a multi-religious service at his home in Colombo that was attended by several lawmakers of United People’s Freedom Alliance, Buddhist and other religious leaders.

Sirisena also agreed to reinstate Wickremesinghe on Sunday despite previously insisting that he would never reappoint him as Prime Minister. Rajapaksa resigned after two crucial Supreme Court decisions made the embattled former strongman’s efforts to cling to premiership untenable.

He was appointed as Prime Minister on Oct. 26 by Sirisena in a controversial move after sacking Wickremesinghe, which plunged the country into an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

Wickremesinghe had refused to step down asserting that his sacking was illegal.

Rajapaksa had sought to secure a majority in the 225-member Parliament but failed. Sirisena then dissolved Parliament and called snap elections on Jan. 5.

The Supreme Court, however, overturned his decision and halted the preparations for snap polls.

The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously declared that the dissolution of Parliament by Sirisena was “illegal”. The apex court on Friday also refused to stay a court order restraining Rajapaksa from holding the office of Prime Minister until it fully heard the case next month.

After signing the resignation letter, Rajapaksa said that following the Feb. 10 local government election, the aim of his party is to have a general election.

He, however, said that he has no intention of remaining as Prime Minister without a general election being held, and in order to not hamper the President in any way, he resigned from the position of Prime Minister and made way for the President to form a new government.

The Supreme Court has delivered a judgment against the holding of the general election that had already been declared. Since that judgment is a long and complicated document, I will study it carefully and in due course express my views on the constitutional impact it will have on the functioning of the parliamentary system of government.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, Former Prime Minister, Sri Lanka