Sri Lankan prez Maithripala Sirisena dissolves parliament, snap polls on Jan 5

Leroy Wright
November 11, 2018

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena Friday dissolved parliament, paving the way for an early general election in the country which is grappling with unprecedented political crisis after the surprise sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and replacing him with Mahinda Rajapaksa.

A government minister speaking on condition of anonymity, said the official notification dissolving parliament took effect from midnight Friday.

The crisis started two weeks ago when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and named Rajapaksa as his successor. Wickremesinghe, who called his sudden dismissal illegal, has urged Parliament to convene immediately to prove his majority in the 225-member unicameral chamber.

Mr Sirisena has also accused Mr Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Mr Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.

Sirisena's supporters had been irked by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya's announcement that he was going to call for a vote for either party to prove their support.

Mark Field, the British minister of state for Asia and the Pacific, tweeted: "As a friend of Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom calls on all parties to uphold the constitution and respect democratic institutions and processes".

"He has robbed the people of their rights and the democracy that we have enjoyed", the UNP said.

By avoiding a test of his majority on the floor of the House, Rajapaksa will remain caretaker prime minister until elections are concluded and a new parliament meets on January 17.

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"It was a follow-up action to the executive's earlier actions - removing the prime minister, appointing a new prime minister and proroguing parliament".

Despite Sirisena claiming Monday he had the support of 113 legislators in his bid to swap Wickremesinghe for Rajapaksa, the United People's Freedom Alliance-the political bloc led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party-admitted that it only had "104 or 105 MPs" on its side, as AFP reported. "The best thing to do now is go for an election".

The leftist People's Liberation Front (JVP), which regards the sacking of Wickremesinghe as unconstitutional, accused Sirisena of trying to consolidate his power grab.

"You cannot read the constitution in one provision in isolation - you have to read it as a whole, especially when amendments have been brought", he said, adding that "before the 19th amendment, the president could dissolve Parliament at will after one year". Sirisena's move is seen as an attempt to buy himself more time to gain the required backing for his preferred candidate.

Several legislators have said they were offered millions of dollars to switch allegiance and at least eight had already jumped to the president's side.

Foreign Minister Sarath Amunugama told The Associated Press on Saturday that the president dissolved Parliament due to the need to go to the people to find a resolution to the crisis.

The EU, in a joint statement with Norway and Switzerland, called for parliament to reconvene and hold an immediate vote.

Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader Anbumani Ramadoss said although it was Sri Lanka's internal issue, the Centre can not overlook the developments as the security of India and the welfare of the Tamil population of the island nation was at stake.

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