The estrangement between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe has its roots in the former’s desire to remain as President until 2025 and not the ‘crisis’ produced by the results of the local government elections where the parties led by both men suffered heavily.
Colombo Telegraph reported in October 2017 that there were plans for Sirisena to continue as President beyond 2025, although he had pledged on numerous occasions that he would be a one-term president, that he would not contest another presidential election and even said there won’t be another such election.
This was when Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne, MP and Chairman of the committee providing technical support to the constitution-making process told a group of Tamil expatriates in London that the Committee was agreeable to Sirisena being given a second term subject to him being elected through parliament.
According to Wickramaratne, it was a gesture of appreciation of a man who gave leadership to set the constitutional-reform ball rolling. He said that it amounts to a ‘phasing-out of the executive presidency.‘
The complete abolition will happen in 2025, not by promises, but through its scripting in the constitution, he said.
After being briefed on all this, President Sirisena had discussed the proposal with Wickremesinghe, who had rejected it. Wickremesinghe also objected to the constitutional reform packaged introduced by former president Chandrika Kumaratunga in 2000 over a similar transitional provision that would have allowed her to remain as President until 2005.
A dismayed Sirisena had told Wickremesinghe that this would compel him, Sirisena, to work as the leader of the SLFP and in terms of the interests of that party. Wickremesinghe had apparently said that as the leader of the SLFP it is entirely up to Sirisena to do what he believes is best for his party.
Following this, Shiral Laktilleka, one of the key advisors to Sirisena, had arranged a meeting between the President and Sajith Premadasa, a longtime aspirant to the position of UNP Leader.
Colombo Telegraph learns that Premadasa had pledged to back the proposal to keep Sirisena in office until 2025 provided that steps are taken to divest Wickremesinghe of the Prime Minister’s post and that the current imbroglio over the fate of the Prime Minister stems from this process.