The Sri Lankan Political Crisis
On October 26, the President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Srisena, ousted the Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe and replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa breaking up a fragile coalition governing the island of Sri Lanka. Mahinda Rajapaksa is a controversial former president of Sri Lanka who has been accused of using brutal force to end country’s 25 year long civil war between LTTE and government forces.
Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as Prime Minister during a hasty ceremony and claimed to have popular support and majority in the parliament. Wikremesinghe, the sitting Prime Minister, refused to stand down and claims he is the rightful Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and that he could prove his majority in the parliament. However, President Sirisena, first suspended the parliament and later dissolved it.
The issue has raised serious questions about the constitutional validity of this move because Wikremesinghe’s coalition has simple majority in the parliament with 106 seats compared with 96 seats with Rajpaksa. Also, according to 19th amendment, added in 2015, stipulates that Parliament can’t be dissolved until 4 1/2 years after its election, unless 2/3 of Parliament requests it happen sooner. The current parliament was elected in August 2015
Impact on India
Considering there is an on-going tussle between India and China for regional supremacy, the political crisis is believed to have effect on India in several ways:
- Rajapaksa is believed to leaning towards China since Chinese investments grew manifold during his term as a president between 2005 to 2015
- Wikremesinghe on the other hand is considered moderate who wants to keep balance between Sri Lanka’s relations with both India and China. Wikremesnghe is also known to be strong opponent of rising Sri Lankan debt towards China.
- India had welcomed the new coalition government in 2015 since it was believed to be pro-India.
- While Rajpaksa is credited with ending the civil war, the painfully slow pace of rehabilitation of Tamil refugees was a sore point with India which may again come to fore if Rajpaksa takes power.
- Increased influence of China over Sri Lanka is cause of concern for India since it gives China unfettered strategic access to Indian Ocean region.