Sri Lanka court set to rule on sack­ing

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD -

COLOMBO: Se­cu­rity was stepped up out­side Sri Lanka’s top court yes­ter­day ahead of an ex­pected rul­ing on whether the pres­i­dent broke the law by sack­ing par­lia­ment last month, a de­ci­sion that could po­ten­tially lead to im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings.

Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena plunged the coun­try into cri­sis on Oc­to­ber 26 when he fired the prime min­is­ter and ap­pointed the con­tentious Mahinda Ra­japaksa in his place. He then dis­solved par­lia­ment on Novem­ber 9.

Four days later, the Supreme Court is­sued an in­terim rul­ing sus­pend­ing Mr Sirisena’s de­cree and restor­ing par­lia­ment, which passed a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion against Mr Ra­japaksa.

The court’s seven-judge bench was likely to de­liver a fi­nal rul­ing on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Mr Sirisena’s move last night.

“If the morn­ing ses­sion is brief, we can ex­pect a de­ci­sion later to­day,” a court of­fi­cial said.

Sacked prime min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe’s party and their al­lies, who com­mand a ma­jor­ity in the 225-mem­ber assem­bly, have sug­gested they could be­gin im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings again Mr Sirisena de­pend­ing on the rul­ing.

Mr Wick­remesinghe’s party loy­al­ists be­lieve that the court de- ci­sion will go in their favour, a view held by many in­de­pen­dent lawyers.

Prob­lems for Mr Sirisena were com­pounded on Mon­day when the Court of Ap­peal sus­pended the en­tire cab­i­net and asked Mr Ra­japaksa to ex­plain on what au­thor­ity he was hold­ing of­fice.

With par­lia­men­tary pro­ceed­ings de­gen­er­at­ing into brawls, the US, the EU and other pow­ers have raised con­cerns over the cri­sis in the strate­gi­cally im­por­tant is­land na­tion of 21 mil­lion peo­ple.

Only China has recog­nised the ap­point­ment of Mr Ra­japaksa, who dur­ing his decade as pres­i­dent un­til 2015 re­lied heav­ily on Bei­jing for diplo­matic and fi­nan­cial sup­port. As pres­i­dent from 2005 un­til 2015, he ended Sri Lanka’s four-decade civil war in 2009 by crush­ing the rebel Tamil Tigers, but 40,000 eth­nic Tamils were al­legedly mas­sa­cred in the process. Mr Ra­japaksa and his fam­ily are al­leged to have prof­ited from his time in power through cor­rupt deals.

Dur­ing an ear­lier stint as prime min­is­ter from 2001 un­til 2004, Mr Wick­remesinghe is cred­ited with pulling Sri Lanka out of its first re­ces­sion, in part with re­forms that have en­deared him to the West.

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