Colombo: Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in on Friday as Sri Lanka's prime minister as President Maithripala Sirisena's party, in a historic deal, backed his national unity government which pledged to introduce a new constitution for ethnic harmony in an attempt to reach out to minorities, including Tamils.
66-year-old Wickremesinghe took the oath of office for the fourth time at the Presidential Secretariat this morning in the presence of Sirisena following which the premier's United National Party (UNP) and the president's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) signed a power-sharing deal.
This is the first time Sri Lanka's history that two rival political parties have joined hands to govern the country still grappling with challenges in the aftermath of the three- decade-long civil war with the LTTE.
Wickremesinghe's victory in Monday's parliamentary polls thwarted a political comeback by Lanka's former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa amid a surge in popularity for his reform- driven mandate.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), that was immediately after Wickremesinghe's induction in office, has proposed to set up a constitutional assembly to draw up a new constitution that will ensure ethnic harmony and reconciliation with safeguards on human rights.
The new premier has struck a conciliatory note appealing to all political parties to work together to heal the divisions of the past as he began piecing together the new government with possible support from minority Tamils.
His UNP won 106 seats in Monday's parliamentary election, just 7 short of a simple majority in the 225-member assembly but enough to form a government.
The SLFP had yesterday decided to join the national government with the UNP for two years.
The new government said it will also introduce electoral reform to scrap the current proportional representation system of elections.
Sri Lanka will adhere to a policy of non-alignment in foreign policy, it said.
The government framework will be based on fundamentals of good governance and respect to rule of law.
The two parties will stop crossovers from either side during the period of the MoU. The SLFP will, thus, provide Wickremesinghe with a working majority.