Wickremesinghe to return as Sri Lanka’s prime minister on Sunday: spokesman

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Ranil Wickremesinghe will return as Sri Lankan prime minister on Sunday, a lawmaker from his party and an official at the president’s office said, likely ending a political crisis that began in late October when he was surprisingly ousted.

Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe looks on during a parliament session in Colombo, Sri Lanka December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Wickremesinghe’s comeback is an embarrassment for President Maithripala Sirisena, who replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa following differences over policy making and other issues.

However, Rajapaksa failed to win a parliamentary majority and resigned on Saturday as a government shutdown loomed.

“He will take the oath at an auspicious time today,” Rajitha Senaratne, a Cabinet spokesman under Wickremesinghe’s former government, told Reuters.

An official at the president’s office confirmed that Wickremesinghe would be sworn in, which should help achieve parliamentary approval for a temporary budget that is required by Jan. 1.

The South Asian island country’s parliament voted to cut the budget for Rajapaksa and his ministers after Sirisena refused to accept no-confidence votes against Rajapaksa, saying that due process was not followed.

Parliament has already passed a confidence vote in Wickremesinghe while it sought his reinstatement as prime minister to defuse a constitutional crisis.

On Friday, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court rejected Rajapaksa’s bid for an injunction against a lower court’s order that barred him and his Cabinet from performing their roles.

Many foreign countries refused to recognise Rajapaksa’s government. Credit rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s downgraded Sri Lanka, citing refinancing risks and an uncertain policy outlook.

Sirisena came to power in 2015 on a pledge to uphold democracy and stamp out corruption. However, his popularity has been hit by a crisis many say he triggered because of personal differences with Wickremesinghe.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Paul Tait

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