Amid high drama, former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of the country at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on Friday. Rajapaksa took the oath in front of President Maithripala Sirisena shortly after the Sirisena-led United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) withdrew from the national coalition government.
Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister after UPFA's withdrawal. The coalition government consisted of the UPFA and the United National Party (UNP), led by Wickremesinghe.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister and UNP legislator Mangala Samaraweera called the appointment of Rajapaksa "unconstitutional," while another cabinet Minister said UNP would challenge the move in court.
Taking to Twitter, Samaraweera said, ‚ÄúThe appointment of Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister is unconstitutional and illegal. This is an anti democratic coup.‚ÄĚ
Responding to Samaraweera, Rajapaksa‚Äôs son, Namal Rajapaksa, took to Twitter as well, and said, ‚ÄúFollowing withdrawal of UPFA from Government, the Cabinet is dissolved and post of PM is vacated as per Article 48(1). President followed his mandate under Article 42(4) of Sri Lanka‚Äôs Constitution to appoint a new PM. Hope you and Wichremesinghe obey the laws and respectfully step down.‚ÄĚ
However, Wickremesinghe remained defiant and was quoted by local media as saying: "I am still the Prime Minister."
UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera said that Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had been informed of UPFA's decision to take the appropriate further action.
In 2015, Rajapaksa sought his third term in office in the presidential election held on Jan 8, while the opposition supported his former aide Maithripala Sirisena as the joint opposition candidate.
Sirisena defeated the incumbent government in 2015, toppling a stunned Rajapaksa from the seat he had held for two terms.