The political crisis in Sri Lanka deepened further on Monday when the nation’s Court of Appeal restrained Mahinda Rajapaksa, unconstitutionally sworn in Prime Minister when the legitimate Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was still in office and who suffered two votes of no-confidence in Parliament on 14 and 16 November, from functioning from his offices in the government secretariat in Colombo.
Rajapaksa’s ‘dummy’ cabinet ministers were also ordered to stop functioning from their allotted offices. Last Thursday and Friday Parliament passed two motions stopping all cash flow to Rajapaksa and his so-called cabinet ministers who lack legitimacy even as they were busy taking administrative decisions and passing orders.
The bureaucracy was placed in a piquant situation not knowing which way to turn. Supposed to be above politics, the bureaucracy is expected to work for the government of the day.
With two functioning Prime Ministers, some have taken the side of Rajapaksa, adding to the confusion in the secretariat. Ever since the President, Maithripala Sirisena, sacked Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister without following the constitutional procedure and plunged Sri Lanka into an unprecedented political crisis, the people are at a loss to know who is in control in Colombo.
The President convened a meeting of all secretaries to the ministries about a month ago and assured them the political crisis will be resolved ‘soon.’ But no solution is at sight as of now. Every attempt of Sirisena at finding a solution to the crisis brought about by his rash act of dismissing Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister illegally seems to have backfired.
On 9 November he dissolved Parliament and called for snap election on 5 January.
A Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Nalin Perera on 13 November stayed dissolution of Parliament and ordered the Election Commission not to proceed with the proposed snap election on 5 January.
Meanwhile, Rajapaksa and many of his supporters withdrew from Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party and joined the newly floated Sri Lanka’s People’s Party, leaving the President isolated politically.
The Wickremesinghe-led United National Party remains intact. Should Parliament seek a fresh vote of confidence, he has the numbers. The Court of Appeal has asked Rajapaksa to explain on 12 December on whose authority he and his cabinet Ministers continue to be in office despite Parliament voting them out twice.
In the wake of Monday’s Appeal Court order, there is no Prime Minister or government in Sri Lanka. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga regretted Sirisena has betrayed the January 2015 mandate of the people and brought the country to “a dangerous precipice of chaos, anarchy and breakdown of the rule of law.”