The ugly scenes in the Sri Lankan Parliament and the fiasco resulting from the sacking of Prime Minister Wickramasinghe by President Sirisena have plunged the country into a seemingly intractable constitutional quagmire. That there are two prime ministers today — Mahinda Rajapaksa foisted by Sirisena and defeated by lawmakers and Wickremesinghe who is holding out and refusing to quit, calling his sacking unconstitutional — is a symbol of the confusion that prevails. The adjourned House will meet on November 21 when a solution may be worked out but in the interim, there is no governance and no proper accountability.
Whatever solution is worked out will leave a trail of disgruntlement. In the circumstances, fresh elections may be a via media but the country’s supreme court has already refused to accept Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament and setting of a date (January 5, 2019) for fresh polls. The brawl between members of Parliament that led to adjournment of the House until November 21 set an unnerving backdrop for the future conduct of proceedings.
There can be little doubt that President Sirisena would need to muster a measure of statesmanship that he has so far not shown. Even if a way is found to hold elections without violating the constitution, there would need to be an interim government in place.
Sirisena may indeed be well-advised to appoint a new prime minister, leaving aside Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa, to navigate the country through free and fair elections. A healing touch is the need of the hour in a country riven with bad blood and dissensions. The apex court must step in to play a sobering role and the President must exercise authority with wisdom and tact.