Ranil Wickremesinghe was on Friday sworn in as Sri Lanka’s prime minister for a fourth time, following his party’s victory in parliamentary polls. The country’s two major political parties signed a power-sharing deal to form a national unity government.
Immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, the two main parties — Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) and Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) — sealed a memorandum of understanding paving the way for setting up of a national unity government.
Here, are five key things to know about PM Wickremesinghe
1. Multiple terms
He has become Sri Lanka’s prime minister for the fourth time in his political career. His three earlier terms were 1993-94, 2002-2004 and since January of this year.
2. Serial winner
He has never lost a parliamentary election since 1977. That means he has been a member of Sri Lankan Parliament for good 38 years. He represents the Colombo district. He completed his law exams at the Sri Lanka Law College and took oath as an advocate in 1972.
3. India relations
On bilateral relations with India, he recently said in an interview with Thanthi TV (a Chennai-based news channel): “Yes I’m quite happy. First, there was President Sirisena’s visit to New Delhi. And then Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is visiting Sri Lanka next month. This shows we are re-establishing links, repairing the damage, getting ahead.”
4. China relations
On former President Mahinda Rajapakasa’s pro-China stand, Wickremesinghe told Thanthi TV: “We keep the Indo-Sri Lanka relations separate from Sino-Sri Lanka relations. Both are important for us. With India, there is a historic link. Under the Indo-Lanka pact, both countries have agreed they will not take any measure that might harm the security of the other. So, in conducting our relations with China or with other countries, we keep that in mind. This way, we are able to handle the Indo-Sri Lanka relationship separately from the Sino-Lanka relations. What we did not like was the attempt during Rajapaksa’s regime to play India off against China. Play China card with India, and India card with China. That is not a wise policy.
5. Stand on war crimes
On the issue of the UN probe on war crimes, Wickremesinghe said in an another interview, with NDTV: “We are going to engage the UN Human Rights Council on these issues. All we are saying is that any criminal jurisdiction must be exercised in Sri Lanka. Any civil jurisdiction has to be exercised in Sri Lanka. Only Sri Lankan courts can determine this issue. The same as in India or USA. We are no different from anyone else but we will restore the independence of the judiciary.