Chaos descends on Sri Lanka as president ousts prime minister

Sri Lanka Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as prime minister

In a surprising political development, the coalition party of the Sri Lankan government, United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has chose to leave the National Government formed with the United National Party (UNP), UPFA General Secretary Minister Mahinda Amaraweera announced.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked the country's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday and replaced him with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, according to local media reports.

But questions remain over the legality of the move, as a constitutional amendment passed in 2015 had taken away the president's power to sack the prime minister. Rajapaksa was sworn in at about 7pm, Colombo time, as the chiefs of the military's navy, air force and army watched in a stately room inside the presidential secretariat.

Sirisena had pledged accountability for war atrocities, but has faced worldwide criticism for being slow to deliver on justice.

Under Sri Lanka's constitution, modeled on the French system of government, the president has executive powers while the prime minister heads the parliament.

Ironically, the new Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa - who was also in Delhi along with his son Namal earlier in what was speculated to be a rebuilding of bridges - had earlier been defeated by Mr. Sirisena, the man who has now appointed him as PM.

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.

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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.

Rajapaksa ruled Sri Lanka as president for nine years beginning in 2005, accumulating vast power and popularity among the country's majority ethnic Sinhalese after overseeing the military's brutal defeat of ethnic Tamil rebels in 2009, ending a 25-year civil war. In a telephonic conversation with a TV station, Wickremesinghe said "I will continue to be the Prime Minister".

Rajapakse was sworn in by Sirisena in a ceremony at the president's office before the smiling ex-president headed to worship at a Buddhist temple.

Wickremesinghe had survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament in April which was brought by supporters of Rajapaksa, the country's former strongman president.

Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine has only 95 seats and is short of a simple majority.

Wickremesinghe's UNP has 106 seats on its own, just seven short of the majority.

The LTTE sought a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for almost 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Several of Rajapakse's close family and associates face corruption prosecutions.

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