Mahinda Rajapaksa (Photo: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images).


Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday (18) became Sri Lanka’s main opposition leader in Parliament, just days after he quit from his post as prime minister.

Rajapaksa, 73, replaced veteran Tamil leader of the main Tamil party R Sampanthan who held the position from 2015.

His appointment was announced by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in Parliament.

Rajapaksa’s appointment as prime minister has put the island nation in political turmoil. the constitutional crisis began in October after president Maithripala Sirisena appointed former president and member of parliament Rajapaksa as prime minister before formally dismissing the incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Wickremesinghe refused to step down, calling his sacking illegal. The country’s supreme court, too, had nullified Sirisena’s illegal move.

Although the president had initially refused to reappoint Wickremesinghe, Sirisena offered to reappoint Wickremesinghe as the prime minister as he respected parliamentary traditions and democracy.

Sirisena administered the oath to Wickremesinghe, and soon after the ceremony, he made a speech where he said he doubted if the two leaders will be able to work together for long.

“With the issues we have I am not sure what guarantees we have that we could go on this journey together,” Sirisena told Wickremesinghe and a group of his lawmakers.

In a statement from his official residence, Wickremesinghe said: “Now I will assume duties of the office of prime minister.

“Unfortunately, during the past few weeks, the progress of this country and the development programs that we undertook were stalled,” he said. “Not only that, the country went backward. Today we commit firstly to bring back normalcy and resuming the development program.”