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22 April 2024

Sri Lanka president sacks prime minister, appoints strongman

Newly appointed Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, left, embraces his brother former defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at a Buddhist temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP)


Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has sacked the country's prime minister and replaced him with a former strongman, state television said Friday.

The state-run Rupavahinj TV station said Sirisena replaced Ranil Wickremesinghe with his former nemesis, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The move ends a more than 3-year-old coalition government that was formed by two bitterly opposed political parties in 2015 on a promise to tackle corruption and wipe out alleged financial irregularities under the previous government.

There was no immediate comment from Wickremesinghe or his party.

Wickremesinghe had survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament in April which was brought by supporters of Rajapaksa, the country's former strongman president.

The main allegation against Wickremesinghe involved his appointment of a Singaporean as the central bank governor who is now accused of leaking inside information to benefit his son-in-law in a treasury bond sale.

Rajapaksa was defeated in the 2015 presidential election after Sirisena, who was his health minister, defected and joined Wickremesinghe in an election alliance.

After being elected president as a neutral candidate, Sirisena accepted an offer from Rajapaksa to take over his Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Since then, party rivalries have been simmering within the government, with Rajapaksa leading a splinter Freedom Party group.