Colombo, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has stepped down from his post, signalling an end to a weeks-long political crisis that has kept the Indian Ocean nation without a functional government.
Rajapaksa signed a letter of resignation in front of supporters and journalists at his private residence in the country’s capital, Colombo, on Saturday.
In a subsequent statement, the 73-year-old said he was bowing out to allow President Maithripala Sirisena to “form a new government”.
Sri Lanka has been in crisis since October when the president fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe amid a bitter power struggle, and replaced him with Rajapaksa, a popular former president who is accused of corruption and wartime atrocities.’President misled’
Following Rajapaksa’s resignation, Sajith Premadasa, UNP’s deputy leader, told reporters the party was ready to work with Sirisena in government again.
“Sirisena was misled by some groups who were against our administration. It is because of them that he removed Wickremesinghe,” he said at Temple Trees, the prime minister’s official residence where the deposed leader has remained holed up since the crisis began.
Premadasa said the president would reappoint Wickremesinghe as prime minister on Sunday.
In a subsequent Twitter post, UNP called on supporters to gathere in Colombo on Monday to celebrate Wickremesinghe’s reinstatement.
There was no immediate comment from Sirisena.
Rajapaksa, in his statement on Saturday, said his coalition will now act as the opposition to Wickremesinghe’s UNP, and lobby the government to hold provincial elections, some of which have been postponed for more than three years.
The former president said he had only taken on the prime minister’s role in the aim of forming an interim government that would oversee the long-delayed polls, as well as new general elections.
“Since I have no intention of remaining as prime minister without a general election being held, and in order to not hamper the president in any way, I will resign from the position of prime minister and make way for the president to form a new government,” he said.