Lankan cri­sis deep­ens as Ranil’s party set to move top court

SL Pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to dis­solve Par­lia­ment to be chal­lenged in Supreme Court; US ‘deeply con­cerned’ about de­vel­op­ments; In­dia keep­ing a close watch

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - RAMANANDA SEN­GUPTA

SRI Lankan Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena’s de­ci­sion to dis­solve Par­lia­ment late on Fri­day and call gen­eral elec­tions in the first week of Jan­uary evoked howls of protest not just do­mes­ti­cally, but across the world.

Ranil Wick­remesinghe’s United Na­tional Party (UNP) said on Satur­day it would chal­lenge the de­ci­sion in court, even as coun­tries like the US, the UK, Canada, and Aus­tralia de­nounced the dis- solution and called for sta­bil­ity.

Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera, fi­nance min­is­ter in Wick­remesinghe’s sacked cabi­net, told re­porters that Sirisena had “kicked the con­sti­tu­tion in the teeth.”

The US was among the coun­tries that ex­pressed ‘deep con­cern’. “As a com­mit­ted part­ner of Sri Lanka, we be­lieve demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and pro­cesses need to be re­spected to en­sure sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity.”

New Delhi, how­ever, chose to stay quiet, ex­cept for an ear­lier state­ment seek­ing a peace­ful po­lit­i­cal solution, and re­spect for the con­sti­tu­tional process.

The is­land na­tion has been fac­ing a po­lit­i­cal melt­down after Sirisena sud­denly sacked Wick­remesinghe as Prime Min­is­ter Oc­to­ber 26, and re­placed him with for­mer Pres­i­dent and strong­man Mahinda Ra­japaksa.

Wick­remesinghe re­fused to step down, and de­manded a par­lia­ment ses­sion for a show of strength. He also re­fused to va­cate his of­fi­cial res­i­dence, guard- ed by a wall of party sup­port­ers.

Fol­low­ing grow­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure, Sirisena twice promised to lift the sus­pen­sion of par­lia­ment, but then changed his mind.

On Fri­day, when it be­came ap­par­ent that Ra­j­paksa may not have the num­bers to win a par­lia­ment show­down, he or­dered the dis­so­lu­tion of par­lia­ment and called for elec­tions on Jan­uary 6.

Just be­fore the dis­so­lu­tion, Sirisena also took over the po­lice depart­ment by at­tach­ing it to his de­fence min­istry.

A se­nior In­dian diplo­mat who had served in Colombo said, “All that the dis­so­lu­tion does is give Sire­sena and Ra­japaksa time to buy sup­port­ers. As for money, it was Ra­japaksa who ini­ti­ated projects like the Ham­ban­tota port, which led to Sri Lanka fall­ing into a Chi­nese debt trap. So we all know where his money is com­ing from. If he wins, PLA-N (Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army - Navy) war­ships and sub­marines will be dock­ing at that port once again.”

The emerg­ing tyranny of Maithri­pala Sirisena will be fought in courts, in Par­lia­ment and at the elec­tion

Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera, for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter and UNP leader

| AFP

Wick­remesinghe loy­al­ist and Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Ra­jitha Se­narathna (wear­ing a black T-shirt) ad­dresses sup­port­ers on Satur­day

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