Prez Sirisena dis­solves Par­lia­ment

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - World - AFP let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ ■

Cri­sis takes a new turn af­ter Ra­japaksa fails to gar­ner enough sup­port

The min­is­ter, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said the of­fi­cial no­ti­fi­ca­tion would take ef­fect from mid­night on Fri­day. Be­fore sign­ing the or­der, Sirisena in­ducted more min­is­ters into the cab­i­net headed by Ra­japakse.

“The elec­tion is likely to be held in early Jan­uary,” the min­is­ter said. Nor­mally an elec­tion should not be held un­til 2020.

Sirisena sparked the cri­sis on Oc­to­ber 26 by nam­ing Ra­japakse, the coun­try’s au­thor­i­tar­ian pres­i­dent from 2005 un­til 2015, as prime min­is­ter af­ter sack­ing Wick­remesinghe.

Wick­remesinghe has since re­fused to leave the premier’s of­fi­cial res­i­dence while the pres­i­dent also sus­pended par­lia­ment to head off any re­volt against his ac­tion.

Sri Lanka’s Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena on Fri­day dis­solved the par­lia­ment in a gam­ble that a new elec­tion will get back­ing for his pre­ferred can­di­date as prime min­is­ter over an ousted premier who has re­fused to give up, a min­is­ter told AFP.

Sirisena signed a de­cree dis­miss­ing the is­land’s 225-mem­ber assem­bly just hours af­ter his party ad­mit­ted it did not have enough votes to get sup­port for for­mer pres­i­dent Mahinda Ra­japakse against ri­val claimant Ranil Wick­remesinghe.

The two have been bat­tling for the prime min­is­ter’s post for two weeks as in­ter­na­tional con­cern grows over the mount­ing tur­moil.

In the lat­est twist in the cri­sis, Sirisena’s United Peo­ple’s Free­dom Al­liance (UPFA) said ahead of the pres­i­dent’s stun­ning an­nounce­ment they were at least eight leg­is­la­tors short of get­ting a ma­jor­ity for Ra­japakse in the assem­bly.

“At the mo­ment we have 104 or 105 MPs,” UPFA spokesman Ke­he­liya Ram­buk­wella told re­porters, adding that the Sirisena-Ra­japakse group hoped to se­cure sup­port from “cross­over” leg­is­la­tors.

Sirisena had said on Mon­day that he had the sup­port of 113 leg­is­la­tors when he sacked Wick­remesinghe. But the ad­mis­sion of a lack of a ma­jor­ity had fu­elled spec­u­la­tion that Sirisena may sack the leg­is­la­ture and go for a snap elec­tion.

The left­ist Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Front (JVP), which re­gards the sack­ing of Wick­remesinghe as un­con­sti­tu­tional, ac­cused Sirisena of try­ing to con­sol­i­date his power grab.

“Dis­solv­ing par­lia­ment at this time is il­le­gal and goes against the constitution,” JVP gen­eral sec­re­tary Til­vin Silva told re­porters.

Sirisena sus­pended par­lia­ment to give him­self more time to en­gi­neer de­fec­tions, ac­cord­ing to the op­po­si­tion. Sev­eral leg­is­la­tors have said they were of­fered mil­lions of dol­lars to switch al­le­giance and at least eight have al­ready jumped to the pres­i­dent’s side.

Wick­remesinghe, who has not left the Tem­ple Trees res­i­dence since his sack­ing, main­tains that the ac­tion against him was un­con­sti­tu­tional and il­le­gal.


■ A file photo of newly­ap­pointed PM Mahinda Ra­japaksa with Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena.

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