After a total of four defeats in under a month, President Maithripala Sirisena and his appointed Premier, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, yet, continue to cling to office.
The defeats in Parliament were when the House, on two consecutive days, on Wednesday (14 November) and on Thursday, respectively, voted out of office Rajapaksa as Premier, by garnering a majority 122 anti-Rajapaksa votes in the 225-seat Parliament, which majority vote however, Sirisena continues not to recognize, giving one excuse after another for such refusals.
These defeats in the Legislature were preceded by the President being forced to reduce his original prorogation period of Parliament by two days, from 15 November to 13 November due to international pressure.
This was after, on 26 October, Sirisena, who’s also the SLFP/UPFA leader, in a shock move, sacked his then Premier, UNP/UNF leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Cabinet, and in their stead, appointed his former leader, Rajapaksa MP, as the new Premier, and also a new Cabinet.
He then followed it up by proroguing Parliament till 15 November in a bid to get the necessary numbers in the House, a total of 113 seats, needed to garner a simple majority in the 225-seat Parliament, to legitimize his new Government, but failed in this attempt.
President Sirisena followed up the prorogation by dissolving Parliament and calling for fresh polls on 5 January, but received eggs on his face when the Supreme Court stayed this order till 7 December when a final verdict would be given.
The other blow was Sirisena having to cut down his prorogation days of Parliament by two days, from 15 November to 13 November due to international pressure.
While Sirisena can legitimately hold office till December 2019, when fresh Presidential Polls have to be called according to the Constitution, nonetheless, Rajapaksa’s continuance as Premier is questionable, after suffering two consecutive defeats in ‘No-Confidence’ votes in Parliament in as many days.
Parliament once more reconvenes on Monday, but not before its last sittings, held on Thursday, turned violent, engineered by pro Sirisena-Rajapaksa MPs who refused to accept defeat by desecrating the Speaker’s Chair and attacking unarmed policemen and Parliamentary staff who came for the protection of the Speaker, as well as other MPs who were not in the Sirisena-Rajapaksa duumvirate’s camp.
The Speaker, after Thursday’s vote, ruled that there is no Premier and Cabinet in the country. The Constitution says that the President will appoint as Premier, who, in his opinion, commands the majority confidence in the House.
With 122 MPs twice voting against Rajapaksa’s Premiership appointment by Sirisena, that, justifies, the Speaker’s actions, despite the President’s voice to the contrary. The President’s actions and inactions are constitutionally illegal and disastrous to the country. This has to change.
From an economic perspective, since the 26 October imbroglio, the benchmark ‘spot’, the current market exchange rate (MER) in the interbank foreign exchange market, has fallen by between Rs 4.10-4.20 (2.43%) thereby, causing inflationary and cost of living pressures as Sri Lanka is an import-dependent economy.
In contrast, in the totality of last year, the MER had weakened by a mere Rs 3.25-3.35 (2.16-2.23%) translating to the current fall, in a period as short as 25 days, to be equivalent to 1.26-1.25 times bigger compared to its total fall last year.
Meanwhile, a mix of the defence of the rupee, coupled with the Government’s foreign debt servicing commitments, has seen the country’s foreign reserves poorer by US$ 1,727.06 million, thus far, in this month alone, an analysis of open market operations data showed.
A clearer picture may be seen when the country’s foreign reserves data as at this month is released by the Central Bank (CB) by the 2nd Friday of next month at the latest in its weekly economic indicators, a pattern that the CB has followed since March 2015. The country’s foreign reserves position as at last month end was $ 7,900.34 million. Foreign borrowings in the interim can blunt a steeper fall in the reserves.