With the reinstatement of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, many political observers around the world think that democratic practices in Sri Lanka has emerged triumphant.
Earlier, when President Maithripala Srisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe from the position of Prime Minister on 26th October, with least forethought and inadequate forward planning and with considerable contempt for public opinion, the judiciary in Sri Lanka asserted itself and nullified the decision of President Sirisena. Of course, Wickremesinghe refused to step down, asserting that his sacking was illegal, though he ceased to be the Prime Minister for all practical purposes.
While President Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe, he installed the ex strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. He did this to the surprise and shock of everyone as Sirisena served under Rajapaksa earlier, then opposed him, contested against him, defeated him in the election and teamed up with Wickremesinghe to form the government. Such action of Sirisena clearly made everyone suspect about his credibility and he was widely perceived as un principled politician and lacking in consistency in principles and approach.
When Supreme court of Sri Lanka nullified Sirisena’s decision and he was forced to reinstate Wickremesinghe, Sirisena was smiling with Wickremesinghe, as if he has done no mistake. Though Sirisena defended his action of sacking Wickremesinghe earlier, claiming that it was done in “good faith” , no one was convinced.
With slap on the face inflicted on him by the Supreme Court, Sirisena would have improved his image if he had submitted his resignation but he has not cared to do so.
Not anymore known for taking principled stand , President Sirisena is likely to behave like a “wounded tiger” in the coming days in dealing with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. In an attempt to prove that his earlier decision to sack Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was correct, President Sirisena is likely to create hurdles in the path of Prime minister Wickremesinghe and provoking him at every opportunity. Certainly, he is unlikely to cooperate with the Prime Minister and work in cordial and creative atmosphere.
It is extremely important that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe should not over react to such hurdles created in his way and get into controversies. He has to necessarily exhibit quality of statesmanship and dignity that should be associated with the position of Prime Minister. It remains to be seen as to whether Wickremesinghe would measure up to such demands.
The recent c constitutional crisis created by President Sirisena, for whatever reasons, also point to the need to re examine the provisions in the constitution to prevent recurrence of such crisis again in future.
Democracies in commonwealth countries have largely been framed on the basis of prevailing system in United Kingdom. However, in UK, the King or the Queen is appointed on the basis of traditional hereditary pattern, which is not so in the case of democracies in Asia. In United Kingdom, such constitutional crisis of sacking the Prime Minister by the King or the Queen has never happened in recent memory.
In the case of democracies in commonwealth countries, the President is elected. In India too, it is not uncommon for the state governments (provincial governments) to be dismissed by the President of India based on the recommendations of the central government. However, the central government has never been dismissed by the President of India. In the case of Sri Lanka , President Sirisena has now set up an unhealthy precedent by dismissing the Prime Minister.
The recent crisis in Sri Lanka certainly calls for re examining the constitutional provisions about the powers of the President. While President Sirisena may not take the initiative to order such constitutional review, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe may examine the feasibility of doing so.