Le­gal chal­lenge as Sri Lankan po­lit­i­cal turmoil deep­ens

LE­GAL TUS­SLE: UNP to move court against Pres­i­dent’s or­der dis­solv­ing par­lia­ment

Oman Daily Observer - - ASIA -

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s largest party an­nounced on Satur­day a le­gal chal­lenge to Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena’s sack­ing of par­lia­ment, a move that has plunged the In­dian Ocean is­land na­tion into fresh turmoil and alarmed the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Sirisena an­nounced on Fri­day night that he was dis­solv­ing par­lia­ment and called fresh elec­tions on Jan­uary 5, two weeks af­ter sack­ing prime min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe and re­plac­ing him with the con­tro­ver­sial Mahinda Ra­japakse.

Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera, Fi­nance Min­is­ter in Wick­remesinghe’s sacked cabi­net, said on Satur­day that their United Na­tional Party (UNP) would file a chal­lenge with Sri Lanka’s top court next week, say­ing the pres­i­dent had “kicked the con­sti­tu­tion in the teeth.”

“We will go to the courts,” Sa­ma­raweera told re­porters in Colombo. “We will fight in the courts, we will fight in par­lia­ment and we will fight at the polls.”

Shortly be­fore sack­ing the leg­is­la­ture, Sirisena also took over the po­lice depart­ment by at­tach­ing it to his de­fence min­istry. He also took con­trol of the state printer, a cru­cial in­sti­tu­tion that pub­lishes de­crees and procla­ma­tions.

He had al­ready taken con­trol of all state me­dia out­lets soon af­ter dis­miss­ing Wick­remesinghe on Oc­to­ber 26.

Sirisena set the elec­tion date, al­most two years ahead of sched­ule, af­ter it be­came clear that his des­ig­nated prime min­is­ter Ra­japakse could not prove his ma­jor­ity when the assem­bly was set to re­con­vene on Wed­nes­day.

This is de­spite sev­eral leg­is­la­tors say­ing they were of­fered mil­lions of dol­lars to switch al­le­giance.

Ra­japakse, 72, was prime min­is­ter for two weeks with­out ever stepping into par­lia­ment. He will now con­tinue as a care­taker premier un­til a new par­lia­ment meets on Jan­uary 17.

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.

“Now we have a care­taker govern­ment with lim­ited func­tions,” Pre­ma­jayan­tha said. “We will con­duct a free and fair elec­tion.”

He ac­cused Wick­remesinghe of caus­ing in­sta­bil­ity by re­fus­ing to va­cate his official residence.

Ra­japakse and the ousted Wick­remesinghe have been bat­tling for power for two weeks as in­ter­na­tional con­cern grew over the mount­ing turmoil in the strate­gi­cally im­por­tant is­land na­tion.

Sirisena signed a de­cree dis­miss­ing the leg­is­la­ture in a bid to head off any re­volt against his ac­tions which in­cluded sus­pend­ing par­lia­ment for nearly three weeks.

Ra­japakse was yet to ad­dress the na­tion af­ter his dis­puted el­e­va­tion, but early on Satur­day at­tempted to jus­tify the dis­so­lu­tion.

“...A gen­eral elec­tion will truly es­tab­lish the will of the peo­ple and make way for a sta­ble coun­try,” he said on Twit­ter.

Sirisena set the elec­tion date, al­most two years ahead of sched­ule, af­ter it be­came clear that his des­ig­nated prime min­is­ter Ra­japakse could not prove his ma­jor­ity when the assem­bly was set to re­con­vene on Wed­nes­day

— Reuters

A man reads a news­pa­per at a stall car­ry­ing the news of the Sri Lanka’s par­lia­ment be­ing dis­solved, on a main road in Colombo, on Satur­day.

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