Sri Lanka plunged into turmoil when its prime minister was replaced with a former president who's been associated with human rights violations. The sudden change of guard could impact policy-making and business confidence at a time of economic trouble, pushing the cash-strapped South Asian country even closer to Beijing.
Sirisena then forced parliament into a three-week recess, preventing lawmakers from holding a no-confidence vote on Rajapaksa, whose previous regime was dominated by the suppression of free speech and harassment of critics. The U.S. State Department has since urged Sirisena to immediately reconvene parliament.
Rajapaksa's appointment amounts to "an anti democratic coup," Sri Lanka's Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera said in a tweet. Wickremesinghe, meanwhile, has refused to give up his title as premier, claiming the president violated parliamentary processes and the constitution.
Mangala tweet: The appointment of @ PresRajapaksaas the Prime Minister is unconstitutional & illegal. This is an anti democratic coup. # lka
Rajapaksa's return to power has already triggered violence and economists warn it could pose dire consequences for Sri Lanka's democratic future, credit rating and financial markets. The new prime minister's proximity to Beijing could also leave Colombo more vulnerable to increased Chinese influence, altering power dynamics around the Indian Ocean.