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Ranil Wickremesinghe to resign as Sri Lanka’s prime minister, Mahinda to take over

 

Updated 1145 GMT

Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced that he will resign from his role as Sri Lanka's prime minister and will be informing the new president of his decision tomorrow.

In an official Sinhala language statement, Wickremesinghe claimed that he valued and respected "democracy". "For this reason, I will step down to allow the new president to establish a new government. I will officially inform him of my decision tomorrow".

His resignation comes in the wake of this week’s presidential elections, which saw Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Sri Lanka’s president. Reports suggest that Gotabaya may now invite his older brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as Leader of the Opposition, to form a new government.

See latest: Mahinda Rajapaksa to be sworn in as Sri Lanka PM

Wickremesinghe has been the leader of the United National Party (UNP) since 1994 and served as Sri Lanka’s prime minister for a total of three terms.

Wickremesinghe with Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this year.

During his most recent tenure, Wickremesinghe has consistently upheld the Sinhala Buddhist nature of the Sri Lankan state, pledging that any constitution for the island would ensure Buddhism continues to hold the “foremost” place and denying there would be any federal solution to the ethnic conflict.

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He has also consistently stated his opposition to any international accountability mechanism for violations of international humanitarian law, even claiming that his government’s ability to postpone UN resolutions “saved Mahinda Rajapaksa from the electric chair”. He also claimed to have saved members of the government from being hauled before the International Criminal Court.

"We will never accept an international war crimes tribunal," he told Sri Lanka's parliament in 2016. "I never approved the Rome Statute. Sovereignty lies with the people according to our Constitution."

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Wickremesinghe also notoriously triggered outrage amongst Tamils in the North-East, when he claimed that the thousands of Tamils that surrendered during the final phase of the armed conflict or were forcibly disappeared Tamils were “most probably dead”. His visits to the North-East would subsequently trigger protests from families of the disappeared.

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Families of the disappeared protest against Wickremesinghe in Mullaitivu earlier this year.