Business Standard

Sirisena keeps control of police as Lanka political crisis festers


Press Trust of India Colombo
The sharp political differences between Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have been further reflected in the allocation of key departments under various ministries.
According to the subjects gazette published on Saturday, Sirisena has kept control of the police department under him as the minister of defence.
The UNP led by Wickremesinghe argues that the police cannot be controlled by Sirisena whereas the 19th amendment to the Constitution has restricted the president to just one ministry in addition to the defence ministry.
Sirisena had also kept the government printer under him which is the authority which publishes government-gazetted decrees.
Sirisena's differences with Wickremesinghe led to a collapse of the unity government between the two leaders on October 26 as Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe as premier and withdrew his UPFA alliance from the unity government, triggering a constitutional and political crisis never before seen in the island nation.
Both Wickremesinghe and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa who was appointed prime minister by Sirisena, were claiming the premiership.
Wickremesinghe citing the 19A said Sirisena had no power to sack him. After a 50-day standoff, Wickremesinghe was restored to office.
The country's highest court has termed Sirisena's action to dismiss parliament and his call for a fresh election as illegal.
Since Wickremesinghe's reinstatement a new Cabinet was sworn in. The UNP wants the Cabinet to consist of 30 members apart from Sirisena and Wickremesinghe.
"We have asked for the opinion of the attorney general on the number of ministers. The president and prime minister who hold portfolios must be excluded in our view," minister Mano Ganesan said.
The 19A amendment has restricted the Cabinet to 30 members when a single political party holds power without any coalition arrangement with another party. Sirisena had ignored the names of those who had crossed over from his SLFP to join Wickremesinghe when the prime minister recommended them for ministerial posts.
Under the Constitution, Cabinet ministers are appointed by the president under advise from the prime minister.
Significantly, Sirisena has also appointed his own representatives to state media directorates while giving Wickremesinghe's UNP control over institutions.

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First Published: Dec 29 2018 | 7:05 PM IST

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