Sri Lanka pres­i­dent dis­solves par­lia­ment, calls for elec­tion to stave off cri­sis

Bangkok Post - - ASIA -

>> COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s pres­i­dent dis­solved par­lia­ment and called for elec­tions on Jan 5 in a bid to stave off a deep­en­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis over his dis­missal of the prime min­is­ter that op­po­nents say is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

An of­fi­cial no­ti­fi­ca­tion signed by Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena an­nounced the dis­so­lu­tion of par­lia­ment ef­fec­tive at mid­night on Fri­day. It said the names of can­di­dates will be called be­fore Nov 26 and the new Par­lia­ment is to con­vene on Jan 17.

Sri Lanka has been in a cri­sis since Oct 26, when Mr Sirisena fired his prime min­is­ter, Ranil Wick­remesinghe, and re­placed him with for­mer strong­man Mahinda Ra­japaksa. Both say they com­mand a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment and had been ex­pected to face the 225-mem­ber house on Wed­nes­day af­ter it was sus­pended for about 19 days.

For­eign Min­is­ter Sarath Amunugama said yes­ter­day that the rea­son for the pres­i­dent to dis­solve par­lia­ment was the need to go to the peo­ple to find a res­o­lu­tion to the cri­sis.

“On the 14th there was to be a lot of com­mo­tion and un­par­lia­men­tary ac­tiv­i­ties spon­sored by the speaker,’’ Mr Amunugama said. “The speaker was not plan­ning to act ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion and stand­ing or­ders of par­lia­ment.’’

Mr 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.

“The dis­so­lu­tion clearly in­di­cates that Mr Sirisena has grossly mis­judged and mis­cal­cu­lated the sup­port that he might or could se­cure to demon­strate sup­port in the par­lia­ment,’’ said Bharath Gopalaswamy, di­rec­tor at US-based an­a­lyst group At­lantic Coun­cil’s South Asia Cen­tre. “At the end of the day, he is a vic­tim of his own home­grown cri­sis.”

Mr Wick­remesinghe has in­sisted his fir­ing is un­con­sti­tu­tional. He has re­fused to va­cate his of­fi­cial res­i­dence and de­manded that par­lia­ment be sum­moned im­me­di­ately to prove he had sup­port among its mem­bers.

Ten­sions had been build­ing be­tween Mr Sirisena and Mr Wick­remesinghe for some time, as the pres­i­dent did not ap­prove of eco­nomic re­forms in­tro­duced by the prime min­is­ter. Mr Sirisena has also ac­cused Mr Wick­remesinghe and an­other cab­i­net mem­ber of plot­ting to as­sas­si­nate him, a charge Mr Wick­remesinghe de­nied.

Mr Sirisena was crit­i­cal of in­ves­ti­ga­tions into mil­i­tary per­son­nel ac­cused of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions dur­ing Sri Lanka’s long civil war against a Tamil sep­a­ratist group, which ended in 2009. Mr Ra­japaksa, who ruled as pres­i­dent from 2005 to 2015, is cred­ited as a hero by the eth­nic Sin­halese ma­jor­ity for win­ning the con­flict. But he lost a re-elec­tion bid in 2015 amid ac­cu­sa­tions of nepo­tism, cor­rup­tion and wartime atroc­i­ties.

Mr Wick­remesinghe’s camp is likely to con­test Mr Sirisena’s move be­cause of con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions stat­ing a par­lia­ment can’t be dis­solved un­til four years af­ter its elec­tion. The cur­rent par­lia­ment was elected in Au­gust 2015.

“It’s to­tally un­con­sti­tu­tional,’’ said Har­sha de Silva, a mem­ber of Mr Wick­remesinghe’s United Na­tional Party and a for­mer min­is­ter. “Mr Sirisena has rel­e­gated the con­sti­tu­tion to toi­let pa­per. We will fight this dic­ta­tor to the end.’’

The party said in a Twit­ter mes­sage that it will meet the elec­tions com­mis­sioner to dis­cuss the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Mr Sirisena’s move.

The US State De­part­ment tweeted that it is deeply con­cerned by news the Sri Lanka Par­lia­ment will be dis­solved, “fur­ther deep­en­ing the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis”.

“As a com­mit­ted part­ner of Sri Lanka, we be­lieve demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and pro­cesses need to be re­spected to en­sure sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity,” the state­ment said.

Ear­lier, US Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Eliot En­gel, the top-rank­ing Demo­crat on the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, and two other law­mak­ers wrote to Mr Sirisena warn­ing that ac­tions cir­cum­vent­ing the demo­cratic process could im­pact US as­sis­tance — in­clud­ing a planned five-year aid pack­age from the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion worth hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.

“We fear that re­cent ac­tions will threaten your coun­try’s demo­cratic de­vel­op­ment,” the three law­mak­ers said in a let­ter.

TEN­SIONS BUILD­ING: Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena waves to sup­port­ers dur­ing a rally out­side the par­lia­men­tary com­plex in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.