Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent Calls Snap Elec­tion

Iran News - - FRONT PAGE -

COLOMBO (Dis­patches) - Sri Lanka plunged deeper into cri­sis Satur­day af­ter Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena sacked par­lia­ment and called a snap elec­tion, leav­ing the coun­try fac­ing a fur­ther two months of dam­ag­ing po­lit­i­cal paral­y­sis.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties rep­re­sent­ing a ma­jor­ity of mem­bers in the 225-mem­ber par­lia­ment closed ranks to de­nounce the Fri­day night dis­so­lu­tion as il­le­gal and un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Shortly be­fore sack­ing the leg­is­la­ture, Sirisena took over the po­lice depart­ment by at­tach­ing it to his de­fense 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 Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe on Oc­to­ber 26.

Sirisena set elec­tions for Jan­uary 5, al­most two years ahead of sched­ule, af­ter it be­came clear that his des­ig­nated prime min­is­ter -- for­mer pres­i­dent Mahinda Ra­japakse -- could not prove his ma­jor­ity when the assem­bly was set to re­con­vene on Wed­nes­day.

Ra­japakse, 72, was prime min­is­ter for two weeks with­out ever stepping into par­lia­ment. He would 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 sacked premier Wick­remesinghe of caus­ing in­sta­bil­ity by re­fus­ing to va­cate his official residence, a charge re­jected by him as well as sev­eral other par­ties who to­gether com­mand a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment.

Ra­japakse and 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.

Wick­remesinghe’s fi­nance min­is­ter Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera de­scribed the par­lia­ment sack­ing as a des­per­ate move by Sirisena.

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