Turmoil looms as Sri Lanka's PM replaced by president

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Constitutional lawyers, political activists and pundits debated on social media and Sri Lankan TV into early Saturday whether Wickremesinghe's ouster was legitimate.

Mahinda Rajapakse being sworn in as Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo on Friday.

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka´s former strongman leader Mahinda Rajapakse, who was controversially sworn in as the new prime minister, is a charismatic leader whose human rights record had attracted widespread global censure.

Parliamentary sources said the speaker would have to decide if he recognises Rajapakse as the new premier following Wickremesinghe's claim that he remained the constitutionally elected prime minister.

The move came after Wickremesinghe, who says he remains prime minister, urged the speaker to convene the parliament on Sunday to prove he still retained his parliamentary majority.

Speaking to jubilant supporters outside his Colombo home late Friday, Rajapakse called on Wickremesinghe to step down.

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Sirisena informed Wickremesinghe that he was being replaced by his former nemesis, Mahinda Rajapaksa, according to aide Mahinda Amaraweera.

Ceylon Worker Congress, a Tamil Party from Sri Lanka's central hills and Ealam People's Democratic Party from the North has pledged support for Rajapaksa remaining within the 96 members, and two United National Party members have also crossed over.

He said that the issue should be resolved peacefully and there should not be a crisis in the country.

Sirisena, who was health minister under Rajapaksa, and Wickremesinghe joined forces to defeat Rajapaksa in the 2015 election.

"Only parliament can show who has the majority", he said. Two other constituent party leaders from minority Tamil and Muslim parties, Mano Ganesan, Palani Digambaram and Rishath Bathiyutheen also said they would be firmly in support of Wickremesinghe and called Sirisena's move to sack Wickremesinghe as illegal and unconstitutional.

His ruthlessness with dissenters, the lavish lifestyles of his three sons and nepotism that saw his brothers holding sway in many key institutions gradually eroded Rajapaksa's popularity, resulting in his defeat in his bid for a third term in 2015.

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After winning the presidency as a neutral candidate, Sirisena accepted an offer from Rajapaksa to take over his Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

In April 2017, hours before Mr. Wickremesinghe headed to India to announce a number of agreements including on the Trinco oil tank farms, Mr. Sirisena held back the agreements, and only a broad "MoU on economic cooperation could be signed".

Traditionally, Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party has espoused left-of-centre views and opposed economic liberalisation, while Wickremesinghe's United National Party leans right and has championed reforms to open up Sri Lanka's economy.

"When the unity government arrangement ended the cabinet needs to be pruned under 30 members", he said.

The previous UPA government never lived down its decision in 2012 to call and congratulate Maldives' Mohamed Waheed, hours after he deposed President Mohamed Nasheed in a coup.

The government, headed by Rajapaksa, and the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels both were accused of serious abuses in the war.

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