Sri Lanka's ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as PM

Sri Lanka's ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as PM

The swearing in of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister is "illegal and unconstitutional", sacked premier Ranil Wickremesinghe asserted Friday.

In a dramatic turn of events in Sri Lanka, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was officially sworn in as the island nation's Prime Minister on Friday.

The appointment was confirmed in a statement from the president's office, but Wickremesinghe later told local television he remained the prime minister.

"Former #SriLanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as new Prime Minister", he said in the tweet.

Mr Sirisena had to call India Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month after reports that he said the Indian secret service was plotting to kill him at a cabinet meeting.

Mangala Samaraweera, the finance minister of the outgoing government, argued that Rajapaksa's appointment was a violation of the constitution, which was amended in 2015 to curtail the president's powers.

In May, Sirisena asked his prime minister to end their power struggle and said the coalition should commit to a reform agenda to revive the country emerging from a decades-long ethnic war that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

The unity government was formed in 2015 when Sirisena was elected President with Wickremesinghe's support.

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Sirisena, along with some UPFA lawmakers including from his centre-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), formed a coalition government with Wickremesinghe's UNP soon after Sirisena unexpectedly defeated former ally Rajapaksa in a presidential election in January 2015. Sirisena was chosen president largely through votes from Wickremesinghe's party.

Sirisena is also believed to be behind a failed attempt to impeach Wickremesinghe in April.

Rajapaksa and Sirisena together have 95 seats and are short of a simple majority. Wickremesinghe's UNP has 106 seats on its own with just seven short of the majority.

Last week, it was reported that Mathripala Sirisena accused his senior coalition partner the UNP of not taking seriously an alleged conspiracy to assassinate him and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the former top defence ministry bureaucrat and brother of ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

However, both allies suffered heavy defeats in the local elections in February, which were seen as a referendum on the ruling alliance.

The startling developments marked the collapse of the country's first national unity government with Mr. Sirisena joining hands again with the leader he ousted in 2015.

His government was also accused of corruption and murdering political opponents. Sirisena has faced global criticism for being slow to deliver on justice.

Worldwide rights groups have called for the prosecution of both the military and the Tigers, who were notorious for suicide bombings and enlisting child soldiers.

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