FILE - Sri Lanka's disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa gestures as he arrives for a meeting with his supporting lawmakers at the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Nov. 29, 2018.
FILE - Sri Lanka's disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa gestures as he arrives for a meeting with his supporting lawmakers at the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Nov. 29, 2018.

Sri Lanka’s disputed prime minister resigned Saturday, saying he wanted to end a long political impasse over his appointment and allow the president to form a new government.

Mahinda Rajapaksa signed a letter of resignation, flanked by lawmakers from his party and blessed by Buddhist and other religious leaders in the presence of media. It was not immediately clear if the letter had been handed over to President Maithripala Sirisena.

FILE - Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena
FILE - Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena speaks during a meeting with Foreign Correspondents Association at his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Nov. 25, 2018.

“Since I have no intention of remaining as prime minister without a general election being held, and in order to not hamper the president in any way, I will resign from the position of prime minister and make way for the president to form a new government,” Rajapaksa said in a statement.

Sirisena then named Rajapaksa the new prime minister, but Parliament twice rejected the appointment.

Supporters of ousted Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe celebrate outside the supreme court complex in Colombo, Dec. 13, 2018.
Sri Lanka's High Court Declares President's Dissolution of Parliament Unconstitutional
Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has ruled that President Maithripala Sirisena's move to dissolve parliament last month was illegal.  In a unanimous decision announced Thursday, the seven-member court said that Sirisena violated the constitution when he called a snap election nearly two years before the parliamentary session was due to end.

Rajapaksa’s resignation came a day after the Supreme Court extended a lower court’s suspension of Rajapaksa and his Cabinet. The top court put off the next hearing until mid-January, when it plans to rule on whether they should hold office after losing two no-confidence votes in Parliament.

No government

Sri Lanka has had no functioning government for nearly two weeks and is facing the prospect of being unable to pass a budget for next year if a new government is not appointed quickly.

The country runs the risk of being unable to use state funds from Jan. 1 if there is no government to approve the budget. It also has a foreign debt repayment of $1 billion due in early January, and it is unclear if it can be serviced without a lawful finance minister.

Former PM asked back

Rajapaksa is a former strongman president who is considered by some a war hero for defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 after a long civil war. But he lost a 2015 re-election bid amid allegations of wartime atrocities, corruption and nepotism. After his appointment as prime minister, he sought to secure a majority in the 225-member Parliament but failed. Sirisena then dissolved Parliament and called new elections, but the Supreme Court struck down the move as unconstitutional.

Sirisena has repeatedly rejected appeals to reappoint Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister, but has invited Wickremesinghe, who has the support of 117 lawmakers in Parliament, to form a government.

Child Marriage