COLOMBO, Oct 27, (RTRS): Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday suspended parliament till Nov 16, a day after removing Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and replacing him with former leader Mahinda Rajapakse in a surprise move that signals escalating political tensions in the South Asian nation.
“The president has prorogued the parliament,” cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters. Minutes earlier Wickremesinghe, who says he remains prime minister, urged the speaker to convene parliament to prove he retained his parliamentary majority. “I have the majority in the parliament, convene the parliament to resolve this,” Wickremesinghe told a press conference in Colombo on Saturday, fl anked by all his coalition partners except Sirisena’s party.
“Only parliament can show who has the majority,” he said. The parliament suspension means Wickremesinghe will not immediately have an opportunity to prove his majority, amid speculation that some of his party members would cross over to back Rajapakse for perks and ministerial portfolios. The island nation’s Media and Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Friday condemned Rajapakse’s appointment as “an anti-democratic coup” and violation of the constitution.
A delegation of the European Union said on Saturday that it was closely following the events in Sri Lanka. “We urge all parties to fully act in accordance with Sri Lanka’s constitution, to refrain from violence, to follow due institutional process, to respect the independence of institutions, and freedom of media.” Sirisena administered the oath of office to Rajapakse on Friday after sacking Wickremesinghe, who was away touring the south of the country.
Under Sri Lanka’s constitution, the prime minister heads parliament and the president has executive powers. The political rift, which comes amid weakening economic growth in Sri Lanka, follows months of infighting in the ruling coalition.
Relations between Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) and Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) have been strained recently after Sirisena criticized Wickremesinghe’s for not adequately investigating an assassination plot against the president. The UPFA had threatened to quit the ruling coalition. Sirisena accused India’s intelligence services of involvement in that plot, a claim New Delhi and Colombo have both denied.