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Game of thrones

Game of thrones

The political turmoil in Sri Lanka ceased after a seven-week chaos that saw the incumbent PM Ranil Wickremesinghe unceremoniously dismissed by the country's President Maithripala Sirisena — only to be reinstated, that too by the same person who sacked him! Sounds like a crisp blurb to a book on a thrilling account of the Constitutional crisis in Asia's oldest democracy. And, it may even be. Such is the tale of the three politicos of the island nation, third being Mahinda Rajapaksa, former President, who replaced Wickremesinghe for the controversial period of seven weeks. The chain of events from the outset to the culmination fall no short of a narrative that would fit a contemporary TV show - something like Game of Thrones. Right from the day, October 26, when Wickremesinghe was dismissed, Sri Lanka has remained unsettled. Despite his readiness to prove his Parliamentary majority with an immediate vote, Wickremesinghe was prevented by Sirisena through the course of a suspended Parliament for three weeks. It is alleged that the President was buying time to amass support for his replacement. Thousands of Sri Lankans protested in the capital to urge Sirisena to immediately convene parliament for a vote. Meanwhile, Rajapaksa gained confidence by the support from Sirisena and this perplexed the observers over the fact how a man their current President once pledged to investigate over human rights abuse had seemingly become his right-hand. Twist enough? Ambiguity and surprises follow in plenty. As the two seemingly colluded against a common enemy — Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka's Supreme Court came in the picture as a party pooper for the duo. Not only did it pronounce Sirisena's action of invoking his executive powers repeatedly for political and partisan ends as illegal, but it went a step ahead to uphold restraining court order against Rajapaksa from acting as PM. Like a sight of shooting star amidst a pool of predicaments for Wickremesinghe. Nevertheless, the status quo stretched till mid-December with Sri Lanka having two Prime Ministers. Finally, on Friday, after a two-month tussle for power, Rajapaksa's son unveiled how Rajapaksa will resign on Saturday following the court's disapproval to let him function as the PM. And, the resignation was announced with the motive of ensuring the stability of the nation, which for the past two months has been very much unstable because of Rajapaksa's (and Sirisena's) theatrics. Obviously, Sirisena fell short of words, just like his initial motive fell short of desired support that he may have forecasted. 122 lawmakers had filed a case to exercise the top custodian's discretion on the matter that had attracted not just the entire nation but a global audience. Sirisena's attempt at the snap election on January 5 was also restrained by the court while Rajapaksa had failed to prove his majority against Wickremesinghe as expected. Curtain opened on December 15 with Rajapaksa's resignation as Sri Lanka's PM. President Sirisena had said that he would not reappoint Wickremesinghe as PM due to sharp personal differences, evident from a fractious relationship in which both had tried to undermine the other, leading to a dysfunctional ruling coalition. Rows over economic reforms, investigations into military abuses against the Tamil minority in the last weeks of the civil war in 2009, and an alleged assassination plot hatched in New Delhi that Sirisena claims his prime minister had a hand in are reasons enough for Sirisena. However, the same man had sided with Rajapaksa — a man accused of rights abuses, corruption, a crackdown on essential freedoms and saddling the country with billions of dollars of debt to China during his time in power. With Rajapaksa's exit and Sirisena's credibility in doubt due to his dual nature, the path was clear for only one last chapter to take place. Wickremesinghe took the oath, administered by none other than Sirisena, yesterday ending a 51-day Constitutional crisis. PM's party confidently stated how they were ready to work with President Sirisena, who was "mislead by some groups" against the unity of the government. And that lessons from this misadventure must be used to strengthen the foundation of democracy. Indeed, the silver lining is that one thing we all look out for in predicaments.

Most countries had not recognised Rajapaksa's government. The global credit rating agencies like Fitch, the Standard & Poor's and the Moody's had also downgraded Sri Lanka's rating owing to the current political crisis. It still, broadly, remains unclear whether the President was misled or his plan misfired. However, this whole incident showed Sri Lanka, and other democracies, how confusion can be internally injected to throw the government into crisis, refraining it from tending to issues that need its immediate attention. How tussle for power can bring enemies closer. And lastly, how democracy protects itself from the ones who may try and twist it for their vested interests. Indeed, a crisp plot for a thrilling book!

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