Political crisis in Sri Lanka

When the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replaced him with his one time rival Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka was plunged into a political crisis. Wickeremesinghe claimed he was still the Prime Minister, had majority in Parliament and would prove it on the floor of the House. But Sirisena effectively checkmated Wicremesinghe by “proroguing” Parliament till November 16. This gave Rajapaksa the time to poach MPs from the rival camp. But obviously the ploy failed: Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp could not wean away sufficient number of MPs to their camp. The summoning of the Parliament on November 16 will have exposed the fact that Sirisena’s game has failed. His United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) does not have the numbers. He was, therefore, left with no other alternative than dissolving the Parliament and calling for a snap poll. And this exactly what he has done. Snap polls will be held on January 5 next year.
What is still mystifying is what led to the estrangement between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe. In the middle of October there was a rumour that in a Cabinet meeting Sirisena had accused a minister of plotting to assassinate him and that India’s external intelligence agency R & AW was behind the plot. But Colombo scotched the rumour forthwith. Not only that, Sirisena put through a call to Narendra Modi to assure him personally that he had not talked of an “Indian plot”.  What is worrisome for India is the re-emergence of Mahinda Rajapaksa as a powerful political player. Rajapaksa’s is known for his pronouncedly pro-China stance. His name is also associated with the ruthless killing of LTTE militants and Tamil civil population in Sri Lanka. Naturally, the people of Tamil Nadu are fearing another reprisal against the Tamil population and DMK leader M. K. Stalin has urged Modi to intervene in the Sri Lanka crisis to protect the Tamil population there.
Much will depend on the outcome of the midterm polls. If Sirisena’s UPFA wins a decisive majority and Rajapaksa becomes legitimate Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, that will be one thing. But if there is a hung Parliament and the game of ayarams and gayarams starts, the country will face political instability. Yet another imponderable is the politically powerful Buddhist clergy. It is against both the Muslims and the Tamil population. Which side the clergy takes in case of a prolonged political battle between Sirisena and his political opponents is another question.

Wednesday, 14 November, 2018