Sri Lanka president 'dissolves parliament' amid deepening crisis

Pauline Gross
November 10, 2018

Wickremesinghe insists he holds a majority in parliament and has refused to vacate his position while Rajapaksa - a former strongman who ruled as president between 2005 and 2015 - enjoys widespread support for ending the country's brutal 26-year civil war.

Wickremesinghe had late Thursday thanked his supporters in a Facebook video for not letting Sri Lanka be "plunged into the darkness of dictatorship".

Lawmakers wanted a vote on Sirisena's decision to fire Wickremesinghe and a majority said they believed the current situation is illegal, the speaker said Monday.

President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections.

A leader of Rajapakse's party, Susil Premajayantha, said Sirisena sacked the legislature to end the power struggle and allow people to elect a new parliament.

Global concern has grown over the mounting turmoil, with Wickremesinghe refusing to leave the premier's official residence while the president also suspended parliament to head off any revolt against his action.

The President of Sri Lanka dissolved parliament on Friday and called a snap election for January 5, in a move aimed at ending a political standoff that has disrupted its capital, Colombo, for weeks.

President Sirisena has failed to persuade the parliament to support his ouster of his one-time ally Wickramasinghe.

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

Sirisena suspended Parliament for two weeks in a move Wickremesinghe's backers said was created to buy time to shore up support.

"Under the 19th Amendment, which has amended the Article 70 of the Constitution say the "(1) The President may by Proclamation, summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament: "Provided that the President shall not dissolve Parliament until the expiration of a period of not less than four years and six months from the date appointed for its first meeting, unless Parliament requests the President to do so by a resolution passed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of Members (including those not present), voting in its favour".

President Sirisena's unrepentant violation of the constitution raises very serious questions about the political choices he is making now.

The party vowed to discuss the situation with the country's election commissioner.

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

Earlier, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and two other lawmakers wrote to Sirisena warning that actions circumventing the democratic process could impact U.S. assistance - including a planned five-year aid package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It said democracy needed to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity.

Rajapaksa indicated what was coming hours before the dissolution in a speech. He called for snap polls on January 5, soon after his coalition reportedly said that it could not get enough votes in support of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as Prime Minister.

Other reports by GizPress

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