Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Sri Lanka’s Speaker refuses to accept new govt

COLOMBO: Speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament Karu Jayasuriya said on Monday that he would not recognize the country’s new government until it proved majority in 225-seat parliament amid a political crisis in the South Asian island nation.

On Sunday, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena ordered the suspended parliament to reconvene on November 14, although Jayasuriya said on Friday that Sirisena had agreed to summon the parliament on November 7.

“As the majority is of the opinion that all changes made in the Parliament are undemocratic and inconsistent with traditions of Parliament … I wish to emphasize that I am compelled to accept the status that existed previously until such time that they and the new political alliance prove their majority in parliament,” Jayasuriya said as quoted by the Colombo Page newspaper.

Sirisena suspended the parliament shortly after sacking elected Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president of Sri Lanka , on October 26.

Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse headed for the capital on Monday to rally in support of his controversial nomination as prime minister, as the island’s constitutional crisis deepened.

Sri Lanka has been gripped by political turmoil since President Maithripala Sirisena sacked his former ally, prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, on October 26 and appointed Rajapakse in his place.

Busloads of Rajapakse followers were arriving Monday from across the country for the rally planned near parliament in the capital Colombo.

Parliament has been suspended while Rajapakse seeks support for a vote of confidence by tempting defectors from other parties.

The former strongman remains a popular if polarising figure in Sri Lanka politics. His iron-fisted rule ended a long and bloody civil war that claimed 100,000 lives.

But his decade in power was marred by serious allegations of rights abuses, corruption, forced disappearances and the persecution of the island’s sizeable Tamil minority.

Tens of thousands attended a rally in support of Wickremesinghe last week, who says his sacking was illegal and wants parliament reconvened to prove his still commands majority support.

Parliamentary speaker Karu Jayasuriya has urged the president to call together legislators, warning the dispute could end in a “bloodbath” if MPs are barred from holding a vote.

In his most strongly worded statement to date, the speaker warned Monday he would not recognise Rajapakse as prime minister and that the president had violated the constitution by sacking Wickremesinghe and suspending parliament.

“Until the new faction (of Rajapakse) is able to prove a majority in parliament, I will recognise the situation that prevailed prior to October 26,” Jayasuriya said in a one-page statement.

“I have to agree with the majority of parliament who believe that the president’s actions are undemocratic, unconstitutional and against all norms of parliamentary procedure,” added Jayasuriya, who is originally from Wickremesinghe’s United National Party but holds a neutral position in parliament.

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