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Constitutional Crisis in Sri Lanka: Operation Black Friday

When carefully analysing the facts and events took place since 2015, it is clear that although this is a sudden move, something similar to this could have been expected.

by Diplomatic Affairs Editor
( October 28, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) On 24th of October 2018 is considered as a Black Friday in the Sri Lankan political history. On this day, the president of Sri Lanka violated the Constitution of the country sacking its Prime Minister paving the way for appointing former president as the new Prime Minister. This move of the president would result in specific consequences on the internal political outlook of the country and its international status as a democratic country. It would undoubtedly create political upheaval in the country pushing back what people achieved since 2015. There are several interpretations of this new development. For the critics of the President Mathripala Sirisena, it is an unconstitutional move based on false assumptions solely to achieve his avaricious aims. They are also of the view that the president has mocked at good governance he promised in 2015 when taking the reign of the presidency. The proponents of this exercise state that to save the country and its economy this move should have been considered. The President of Sri Lanka indicated that as there was a move to assassinate him and the country is heading towards a crisis mainly because of its economic failures he took this decision. For the international community, it is a surprising move as Sri Lanka has been maintaining its democratic traditions since independence and even amidst the bloody war with the LTTE.
When carefully analysing the facts and events took place since 2015, it is clear that although this is a sudden move, something similar to this could have been expected. In this whole episode, we can identify three main characters. They are President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and former President Mahinda Rajapakse. Each of these characters has some contributions for creating this situation. It is the president, who promised to change the Constitution and abolish the presidency within hundred days. Instead of fulfilling his obligations, he made the environment conducive for him to keep the presidency until the term is over and make the path clear for him to contest in the next presidential election. Indeed, he is greedy for power. In the case of the Prime Minister, he believed in good governance and wanted to introduce a new political culture to Sri Lanka working with the main rival party. He aimed to develop the country in an environment of democracy, political freedom, freedom of expression and the rule of law.
However, all of his actions displayed that he was not marching forward with the required vigour and speed but with certain hesitations. He seems to be applying a reductionist approach towards the realisation of his aims. Former President’s primary goal was to create the environment suitable for his son to become the next president of the country. However, as a seasoned politician, he acts carefully and vigilantly. As such, it is somewhat surprising to see him following the path of the president. A closer look at the manoeuvring of these characters, the background to the Black Friday Operation could understand. We should not also forget the role of certain international actors in operation too.

Undoubtedly, President of Sri Lanka has been entrapped by the people surrounding him. With the influence of others and to fulfil his selfish desires, he has been trying to win in the next presidential election

Undoubtedly, President of Sri Lanka has been entrapped by the people surrounding him. With the influence of others and to fulfil his selfish desires, he has been trying to win in the next presidential election. For that, he needs the support of the former President. Very often the President opposed to working with the Prime Minister and blocked certain positive moves of the Prime Minister preventing him from emerging as a possible challenger during the next Presidential election. When all steps of the President backfired, he created a story that RAW is plotting to kill him. This story boomeranged as India displayed its dismay towards this unrealistically fabricated story.

On the other hand, rejecting the President, India welcomes the Prime Minister. It is a fact that no Sri Lankan government can survive antagonising India. In the meantime, media reports indicated that China has been opposing leasing of a part of Colombo harbour to an Indian company and allowing India to manage Mattla airport. These two situations might have resulted in China to influence the President to take specific actions to prevent India’s intervention in Sri Lanka with the blessing of the Prime Minister. Therefore, greediness of the President coupled with the Chinese interests played an essential role in the Black Friday Operation.
Former President has been very carefully playing cards in the political arena in Sri Lanka. Especially, with the failed no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister and failed political march to Colombo took place a few months ago, he has realised that it was not the apt time for him to grab power. When the people have been rejecting the coalition government mainly due to the rising cost of living, the introduction of special courts to expedite cases against some of his family members, and his inability to defeat the budget proposal in the next month, he might have agreed with the president to become a part of the Operation Black Friday.
The President is expecting the support of the former President at the next presidential election creating an alliance with the former President. Mahinda Rajapakse wants to win in the upcoming parliamentary election to be elected as the Prime Minister to pave the way for his son to contest in the 2024 presidential election and to stop all judicial proceedings against him and his family. The question is whether Mahinda Rajapakse could secure a majority at the net parliamentary session to oust Ranil Wickramasinghe. It depends on how both groups could get the members of parliament into their camps. At this point, money plays a vital role to buy the votes. It would be an opportune moment for certain international actors to appear providing funds.
The whole country is looking at whether Ranil Wickramasinghe could be able to save the country from sliding towards a dictatorial path. His main weaker point was his inability to translate political freedom into economic prosperity. Therefore, certain politicians and the majority of the people are angry with him. Thus, securing the support of the members of the parliament and the people is crucial for his survival. Even after his survival, he needs to rethink about his political strategy. More importantly, if Mahinda Rajapkase secures his victory, Sri Lanka would face numerous difficulties in the international arena. It would lose all it gains and even might face sanctions from certain countries. Therefore, defeating the Black Friday Operation is the most crucial moment in Sri Lanka political history. The most likely outcome would be dissolving of parliament after 16th of November 2018.

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