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.


Three explosions target Shiite shrine in Kabul: Afghan official

Updated 16 min 15 sec ago
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Three explosions target Shiite shrine in Kabul: Afghan official

KABUL, Afghanistan: An Afghan official says three explosions have struck near a Shiite shrine and cemetery in western Kabul as people gathered there to mark the holiday of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
The multiple explosions killed six people and wounded 23, a spokesman for the health ministry said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi says Shiite worshippers came to the Karti Sakhi shrine in the Afghan capital when the blasts took place on Thursday morning in the Shiite neighborhood. The tradition at the shrine is to hoist green flags and honor the dead at the cemetery by placing food at the gravesides.
It is unclear what caused the explosions and no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Daesh affiliate in Afghanistan has in the past targeted the country’s Shiites. The Sunni militant group considers Shiite Muslims heretics.