Colombo On Edge As Sri Lanka Faces Constitutional Crisis

It is monsoon season in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, and dark clouds hang over the city. As the skies open, people dash for cover from the downpour amid flashes of thunder.

But it is a political storm that has the country on edge. A constitutional crisis has one of Asia’s oldest democracies teetering on the brink of the first extralegal transition of power in its history.

Two men currently claim the title of prime minister, with the ongoing power struggle bitterly dividing the country. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the incumbent premier whose position is under greater threat, is trying to resist a power grab and refuses to step aside.

Prime minister for three years underneath President Maithripala Sirisena, the 69-year-old had long endured a tumultuous relationship with his boss. Mr Sirisena supported a no-confidence vote in April that Mr Wickremesinghe survived and the two have fought over economic policy and ethnic reconciliation. Then on October 26, Mr Sirisena abruptly replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, the egotistical populist whom Mr Sirisena had defeated in the 2015 election. Mr Rajapaksa had served for 10 years.

The previous bad blood between Messrs Sirsena and Rajapaksa is now apparently in the past. Ahead of his 2015 presidential election victory, Mr Sirisena pledged to investigate Mr Rajapaksa for his alleged role in crimes committed against the Tamil minority group in the final weeks of the 25-year-long civil war in 2009, and has also previously accused him of hatching an assassination plot against him. But he is now Mr Sirisena’s choice for prime minister.

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