Are we witnessing an India vs China “influence for power” in Sri Lanka? Sri Lanka sank in a political crisis when “Pro-India” PM – Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked by President Sirisena and “Pro-China” Mahinda Rajapaksa was selected to supersede him, thus breaking the coalition government. President Sirisena is under growing pressure to sustain the island nation’s constitution and resume parliament as soon as possible.
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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared his sacking as illegal and that he will remain firm on his position, leading to a deadlock between his party and labour unions loyal to Sirisena. The crisis has a significant role to play in the battle of influence in South Asia between Sri Lanka’s established allies – India and China.
China, who has been seen as a long supporter of ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, was quick to send congratulatory on becoming prime minister. On the other hand, India, the European Union and the United States have all insisted that Sirisena should abide by the constitution.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert released a statement, “We call on the president, in consultation with the speaker, to resume parliament and democratically allow the elected representatives of the Sri Lankan people to fulfil their duties and lead their government,”
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A senior lecturer at the University of Peradeniya, Kalana Senaratne told that in 2015, a constitutional amendment diluted the powers of the president, making Sirisena’s action unconstitutional. Whereas, media reported that in spite of being firm on his position,
Wickremesinghe’s police security had been drastically reduced.
The political chaos arrives at a time when the Sri Lankan economy is struggling with a slow growth rate and a declining value of Sri Lankan rupee with an-all time low. If the situation persists; Sri Lanka could struggle to refinance government debt that comes due in early 2019 at an affordable rate.
India and western countries have their concerns regarding the Rajapaksa’s relations to China after he invited in billions of dollars of investment from Beijing. This investment has put debt shackles on Sri Lanka leading it to hand over the control of a strategic port to China.