The October Coup

Sri Lanka’s First Dodgy Transfer Of Power

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From when state TV went blank

I was putting my son to sleep on Friday the 26th when an SMS told me that the government had changed. This was unusual.

I try to be dimly aware of my surroundings, and I didn’t remember an election, or even a meeting of Parliament. But there it was. A short, swift blow against the state, short enough to fit into an SMS. The french word for it would be coup.

Most coup plotters try to involve a Colonel or maybe a Minister, but if a President goes off the reservation… well I don’t think that’s ever happened before. It’s a bit like if the Queen Of England decided she wanted a UKIP government overnight and took over the BBC, and then told all the MPs to stay home. That’s exactly what happened here.

In one night President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the leader of a minority party as Prime Minister. This man was Mahinda Rajapaksa, the guy Sirisena had run against years earlier. If Sirisena was elected to do one thing, it was to NOT do this one thing. He ran on a campaign of ‘good governance’, but in the end he gave up power without even an election or a vote.

If Sirisena was fed up he could have pulled out of the government coalition (which he did) and triggered a vote of no confidence in Parliament and then, depending on that vote, going for new elections. But democracy you know, BORING.

Sirisena (or Basil) just cut to the chase and appointed a new Prime Minister, This PM of course didn’t have an actual majority, so they shut Parliament for three weeks so he could buy one. I suppose that’s one way to form a government, and it’s certainly appealing for those buying integrity in foreign currency, but it’s hardly the democracy that Sri Lankans are used to.

Thru much more trying times than these, Sri Lanka has always transfered power peacefully and democratically. We have never changed governments overnight with no input from Parliament or the people. I won’t get into the Constitutional arguments because it seems obvious to me. As a citizen I shouldn’t learn about a government change through an SMS. I should either vote on it or my representative in Parliament should.

This wasn’t a normal change in government, and we shouldn’t treat it as legitimate. This was a coup.

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A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. Videos: and podcast:

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