Sri Lanka reinstates ousted prime minister

Ousted Ranil Wickremesinghe was replaced by Mahinda Rajapaksa who resigned amid the crisis. (File/AP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Sri Lanka reinstates ousted prime minister

  • The South Asian island country had plunged into instability after President Maithripala Sirisena replaced Wickremesinghe with Mahinda Rajapaksa
  • An official at the president’s office confirmed Wickremesinghe’s oath taking

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reinstated Sunday, his party said, ending a 51-day crisis that had paralyzed the island nation and pushed it toward debt default.
The 69-year-old leader was sworn in by President Maithripala Sirisena, who sacked him on October 26 and triggered a power struggle that brought the country’s government to a standstill.
Wickremesinghe had refused to step aside since being sacked by in late October and replaced by former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Sri Lanka had drifted without a functioning government for nearly two months as the rival factions jostled for power in parliament and the courts.
Sirisena had vowed to never reappoint Wickremesinghe — who he publicly castigated in speeches in recent weeks — as prime minister under his watch.
The acrimony between the two was underscored Sunday when Sirisena barred journalists from attending the swearing-in ceremony — leaving it to Wickremesinghe’s legislators to announce the appointment.
“We thank the citizens of the country who fought the illegal seizure of power and ensured that democracy was restored,” his United National Party of Sri Lanka posted on Twitter.
Sirisena’s appointee Rajapaksa was unable to govern, failing many times to muster a majority in parliament.
He was defeated six times on the floor of the legislature before being forced to step down on Saturday.
Sirisena suffered a huge setback when the highest court in the country ruled last week that he acted outside the constitution when he sacked parliament in early November.
The court also confirmed Friday that Rajapaksa and his purported cabinet could not exercise the powers of the office they held.
A spokesman for Wickremesinghe said he was expected to form a cabinet in the coming days, with priority given to the 2019 budget, without which foreign debt servicing may not be possible.
Sri Lanka had been braced for a government shutdown as parliament failed to approve spending for 2019, and ratings agencies downgraded the country’s credit rating amid fears of a sovereign debt default.


No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (REUTERS)
Updated 35 min 44 sec ago
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No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

  • The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban
  • Afghan president says deal not possible without a ‘regional consensus’

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani said late on Friday that a breakthrough in Afghanistan’s peace process will require more time.
“We consider the US commitment to a political solution to be credible and are coordinating to build the necessary international consensus on peace. But without a regional consensus on peace and addressing Taliban’s interdependencies with their supporters, breakthroughs will take time,” Ghani said.
Ghani made the comments on Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. His remarks are his first in public since a series of talks between US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Taliban emissaries held in recent months in Qatar.
Afghan government delegates were excluded from the discussions because the Taliban consider Ghani’s administration a puppet of the West.
Khalilzad is in Afghanistan hoping to revive talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including government delegates, after Ghani called off such a gathering in April in Qatar. Ghani summoned a grand traditional assembly, or Loya Jirga, afterwards in Kabul to set a mechanism for talks with the Taliban.
In Bishkek, Ghani said his government’s mandate for seeking peace with the Taliban comes from the 23-point resolution of the Jirga.
He said that “although the Afghan war is multi-dimensional, reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban is a key component for the reduction of violence.”
Ghani put forward four proposals for an Afghan peace deal. It includes the formation of a regional and international coalition for peace and the creation of a regional task force to develop bankable programs and projects for regional connectivity and poverty reduction.
He said dealing with drugs as a driver of conflict and criminality should be comprehensively addressed within the peace-making and peace-building framework. Agreeing to a regional framework for fighting terrorism was also essential.
Ghani said his government will hold the presidential elections on Sept. 28, which have been delayed twice so far. Some of Ghani’s rivals accuse him of using government resources in his favor for the poll, while other politicians, including Khalilzad, favor postponing the poll until the talks with Taliban have finished so that the latter can also take part in the elections.
Jamaludin Badar, a former governor who is a member of the government-appointed High Peace Council, said that, given the regional and international involvement in Afghanistan’s long war and the complication of the conflict, headway cannot been expected soon in the talks.
“There are countries in the region and beyond who want their interest to be protected in Afghanistan post the peace deal,” he told Arab News. “So it is natural for the peace process to drag on and on. These countries have a consensus on ending the war, but not on their interests and future involvement here.”
Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, an analyst, said: “Ghani wants to remain in power for another five years and makes different comments at different juncture of time. The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban.”