Sri Lanka PM out foxes naive Sirisena, gets cracking

ECONOMYNEXT – Beleaguered Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who deftly deflected calls for his resignation after the local elections debacle has out maneuvered President Maithripala Sirisena and consolidated his grip on power.

A naive Sirisena had been made to believe by his closest aides that a majority in the United National Party (UNP) wanted Wickremesinghe out, but the Premier ended up getting all his legislators vowing continued support for his leadership.

"Contrary to media reports, the President never asked the PM to step down," a senior aide of Sirisena said. "In fact, he rejected a call from (SLFP) minister John Seneviratne to make Mahinda Rajapaksa the prime minister. He had indicated it would be better if the Prime Minister demonstrated his support."

The short-lived power struggle amplified and broadcast live on a private television ended by Tuesday night as a damp squib with no change in the government except for Sirisena ending up further weakened.

The fact that Sirisena had no power whatsoever to remove cabinet ministers was reiterated by his own aides who told him that the 19th amendment to the constitution had severely restricted his options and made him lame duck.

The appointment of a "committee" to decide the future course of the national government appears to be a face saving mechanism for all concerned. Neither leader contemplated changing the status quo, a source close to both sides said.

However, in a bid to address criticism that the UNP administration was stonewalling the investigations into high profile cases such as the Lasantha Wickrematunga assassination, a reenergised police went into action last night.

The Criminal Investigations Department announced today that it had arrested former Deputy Inspector General Prasanna Nanayakkara on a charge of suppressing evidence in the Wickrematunga killing in January 2009.

Nanayakkara as DIG based in Mirihana was in charge of the Mount Lavinia area where the assassination took place.

Police sources said a Senior Superintendent of Mount Lavinia at the time as well as two retired Inspectors of General and another retired senior DIG working for a foreign organisation are also likely to be questioned again and possibly arrested soon for the same charge of suppressing evidence.





The investigation focuses on, among other things, the disappearance of Wickrematunga’s note book which was found in his car shortly after his killing. Vital evidence written down in that note book had disappeared.

Some of those grilled earlier had said they were under pressure from the then political leadership. The involvement of the military intelligence has been well established in the Wickrematunga killing with the CID now trying to identify the command responsibility.

Former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has already been named as a person of interest. Wickrematunga was killed two days before he was to go to the Mount Lavinia courts to disclose what he knew about the MiG deal in which Rajapaksa has been involved along with his relative Udayanga Weeratunga who is evading arrest.

The defeat of the UNP at Saturday’s local elections is also partly blamed on the government’s failure to prosecute Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and alleged deals with several members of the previous regime.

Rajapaksa returned to the island after the local government elections. (COLOMBO, February 14, 2018)

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