Sri Lanka. In the local elections held in February, the
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party won a landslide
victory with 231 of the local assembly's 340 seats.
result was a setback for the country's coalition government,
made up of Sri Lanka's Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United
National Party (UNP). The SLPP was supported by the
country's former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and has been
formed by defunct members of the SLFP, according to the
Reuters news agency. However, Mahinda Rajapaksa belongs to
SLFP led by President Maithripala Sirisena. The UNP is led
by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and is the country's
In March, Sri Lanka introduced a state of emergency
throughout the country after violence between Muslims and
Buddhists ignited. The unrest was worst in the city of Kandy
where anti-Muslim riots were going on. At least two people
died in the riots and hundreds of Muslim business premises
were destroyed. Cars were set on fire and more than 20
mosques were damaged. Around 70% of Sri Lanka's population
are Buddhists and about 9% are Muslims. Tensions between the
two groups have increased in recent years since some
Buddhist groups have accused Muslims of forcing people to
convert to Islam and to destroy ancient Buddhist sites. The
Muslims have denied the allegations.
In the spring, a power struggle developed between
President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. The
split was mainly due to Sirisena criticizing
Wickremesinghe's economic policy and urging him to resign.
In April, a vote of no confidence was held in Parliament
against Wickremesinghe, which he managed with a good margin.
The vote was initiated by Rajapaksa and his allies in SLFP.
President Sirisena announced in July that Sri Lanka would
begin the death penalty for drug offenders. The president
stated that he was inspired by the Philippines, which since
2016 has waged war on drugs in which thousands of people
have been killed. The decision meant that Sri Lanka claimed
a long stop for the death penalty since executions have not
been executed since 1976.
In the same month, Sri Lanka moved a fleet base from the
tourist district of Galle east to the port of Hambantota,
which Sri Lanka will lease to a Chinese company for 99
years. The naval base would strengthen the security of the
port. Nevertheless, sources told the Reuters news agency
that the US, India and Japan were concerned that it would be
used for military purposes.
In August, China granted a loan to the Central Bank of
Sri Lanka of US $ 1 billion. The money would be used for
investment in infrastructure. However, concern grew that
investment would propel Sri Lanka into a deeper economic
crisis and weaken the country's sovereignty.
During the fall, it stormed well within the Sri Lankan
political elite. It started with President Sirisena kicking
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in October and replacing him
with Mahinda Rajapaksa - which led to the government
coalition cracking down. Rajapaksa was also appointed
Despite the dismissal, Wickremesinghe stated that he did
not intend to resign from the Prime Minister's post.
Instead, he called for an extra parliamentary session to
demonstrate his support in Parliament.
The call prompted Sirisena to close Parliament until
November 16, which meant that all meetings were postponed.
According to analysts, this could deepen the country's
economic crisis when a budget meeting was adjourned.
According to Wickremesinghe, Sirisena wanted to keep
Parliament closed until he got more support for Rajapaksa
who did not have a majority.
In early November, President Karu Jayasuriya convened
members of Parliament to discuss the government crisis -
despite the fact that Parliament was closed. The President
opposed President Sirisena's decision to dismiss
Wickremesinghe and warned of a bloodbath on the country's
streets if the political problems could not be resolved.
Just over a week later, the president announced a new
election until January 2019. The measure was condemned as
illegal by the UNP, which together with two other parties
appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The appeal was
heard in the court, which shortly thereafter decided to
reinstate Parliament and stop preparations for re-election.
In mid-November, a vote of no confidence was held in
Parliament in which Rajapaksa was voted down as prime
minister. However, the ruling was not accepted by Rajapaksa
but led to a fight between MPs from various political camps
and a person to be taken to hospital.
The country's highest court ruled in December that
Sirisena violated the constitution when he dissolved
parliament on November 9. The decision meant that Sirisena
risked being brought before national law. In connection with
the ruling, Mahinda Rajapaksa left the Prime Minister's
office voluntarily and Ranil Wickremesinghe was re-installed
as head of government.