Sri Lanka PM sworn in as 2 par­ties sign deal


Sri Lanka’s new prime min­is­ter, Ranil Wick­remesinghe, was sworn in Fri­day and the is­land na­tion’s two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties — for­merly bit­ter ri­vals — signed an agree­ment to work to­gether in the new par­lia­ment.

Their co­op­er­a­tion is a hope­ful sign in tack­ling the coun­try’s most press­ing chal­lenges — na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion af­ter a long and bru­tal civil war and over­com­ing the eco­nomic hard­ships borne from the con­flict.

Wick­remesinghe’s vic­tory in Mon­day’s elec­tion thwarted a po­lit­i­cal come­back bid by the coun­try’s for­mer strong­man pres­i­dent, Mahinda Ra­japaksa, seven months af­ter he lost his pres­i­den­tial re­elec­tion bid.

Wick­rem­s­inghe, a law­maker since 1977, has al­ready served three times as prime min­is­ter, a po­si­tion sec­ond to the pres­i­dent in Sri Lanka. He was sworn in be­fore Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena at a cer­e­mony at the pres­i­dent’s of­fice where an agree­ment to co­op­er­ate was signed be­tween Wick­remesinghe’s United Na­tional Party and Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Free­dom Party.

The UNP won 106 seats at the Mon­day’s elec­tion, seven short of a ma­jor­ity in the 225-mem­ber par­lia­ment. But the agree­ment be­tween the UNP and SLFP, which won 95 seats, will en­able Wick­reme­sighe to se­cure a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment. De­tails of the new agree­ment were not im­me­di­ately re­leased.

The par­ties have been bit­ter ri­vals for decades, and such co­op­er­a­tion is un­usual in Sri Lankan pol­i­tics. An ear­lier agree­ment to co­op­er­ate be­tween a pres­i­dent and a prime min­is­ter elected from dif­fer­ent par­ties ended af­ter bick­er­ing.

On Wed­nes­day, Wick­remesinghe pledged to build con­sen­sus on na­tional poli­cies and in­vited all po­lit­i­cal par­ties to work to­gether, ei­ther by ac­cept­ing a min­is­te­rial po­si­tion or through the par­lia­ment com­mit­tees.

Sirisena broke away from Ra­japaksa’s Cab­i­net last year and won an up­set vic­tory in the Jan. 8 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion with sup­port from Wick­remesinghe, who was op­po­si­tion leader at the time. Ra­japaksa’s loy­al­ists, how­ever, com­pelled an un­will­ing Sirisena to field the for­mer pres­i­dent in the par­lia­men­tary elec­tion.


Ranil Wick­remesinghe, right, takes oath as Sri Lanka’s prime min­is­ter in front of Sri Lanka’s pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena, cen­ter, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Fri­day, Aug. 21.

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