Sri Lanka Crisis Deepens
In News: Sri Lanka’s parliament passed a no-confidence motion against newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, presenting a standoff with the opposition and throwing the country deeper into turmoil. Deputies from Rajapaksa’s party rejected the voice vote as illegal, saying it wasn’t scheduled and that the pro-China former strongman would remain in office.
- First, President Maithripala Sirisena dismisses Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, who was his choice.
- Then he installs as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President and someone whom Sirisena had defeated in the most recent election.
- Sirisena realised that Wickramasinghe was popular, so he dissolved Parliament but the Supreme Court ruled it illegal. Sirisena still did not want to call Parliament. The Speaker refused to obey.
- The outgoing Prime Minister knew he could win a vote of confidence and Rajapaksa could not win. Then Sirisena promised elections in January. Parliament was summoned by the Speaker. Rajapaksa lost the confidence vote.
Can we call it a Constitutional crisis?
Sirisena’s decisions are unlikely to pass the test of the courts since the constitution explicitly bars early dissolution of the House unless two-thirds of its members vote for it. However, events are moving at a pace that may make it impossible to restore status quo even if the court overrules the president’s decisions. Whatever be the judicial outcome, the ongoing chaos threatens to push Sri Lanka back to a state of political uncertainty that it cannot afford. Though it has been a decade since the war in the north ended, there has been limited progress on the resolution of issues that nearly split the country on ethnic lines.
The sudden developments in Sri Lanka have thrown into uncertainty the few steps that the country finally took this year to address post-war issues of transitional justice and rehabilitation, which it had committed to at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015. As President, Rajapaksa had invited UN censure for not doing enough on this front. Instead, after winning the war against the LTTE in 2009, he unleashed a majoritarian triumphalism that dashed all hopes for reconciliation.
Difference between the Constitution of India and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, which had a Constitution like India’s, changed it to one more like the French Constitution, where the President chooses the Prime Minister who has to command confidence of Parliament. But there is no way to remove the President. The consequences of Sirisena’s decision go beyond a mere change of regime; it may lead to a reversal of the structural changes in the polity achieved since 2015.
- South Asia has been the home of religions preaching nonviolence but its politics has been very violent. There have been regional disputes, competing nationhoods as well as communal conflicts.
- India has asked that democratic values and constitutional process be respected. This is due to the fact that further chaos could derail Colombo’s slow progress towards rebuilding its economy and healing the wounds of the civil war. Afterall, a peaceful neighbour is always beneficial for a country like India.
Connecting the Dots:
How does Sri Lanka feature in India’s strategic roadmap for the future? What concerns does India have with respect to China’s increasing influence in Sri Lanka? Examine.