COLOMBO – A Sri Lankan court suspended on Monday former president Mahinda Rajapaksa from serving as prime minister after his surprise appointment to the post in October triggered a political and institutional crisis.
The Colombo-based Court of Appeals took the decision while hearing a petition by 122 legislators to remove Rajapaksa and his government from power, after parliament passed two no-confidence motions against the government which were rejected by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Judge Preethi Padman Surasena said if the court concluded that Rajapaksa and his ministers were not in office lawfully, they would be “mere usurpers of office of the prime minister and cabinet of ministers.”
The court argued that if Rajapaksa and his government remained in power without their legitimacy being established, they could take “irreversible” decisions and cause “irreparable” damage to the country at both the national and international level.
The government has not yet responded to the court’s verdict.
On Oct. 26, Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and appointed Rajapaksa in his place, before suspending parliament the next day.
In mid-November, the president announced that he was dissolving parliament after accepting that his government had not received sufficient support for Rajapaksa’s appointment, but the Supreme Court reversed his order on Nov. 27.
Relations between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe increasingly soured during the last three years, culminating in Rajapaksa urging the president to dissolve the government in October.