Colombo. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday suspended parliament till November 16 after sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority, deepening the political crisis in the island nation.
Sirisena’s move is seen as an effort to allow former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa to buy more time to seek majority in parliament.
Parliamentary officials said the president prorogued the house till November 16. The parliament was earlier due to meet on November 5 to unveil the 2019 annual budget.
Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine has only 95 seats and is short of a simple majority in the 225-member house. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) has 106 seats on its own with just seven short of the majority.
The UNP claimed that President Sirisena sought to prorogue the parliament as 72-year-old Rajapaksa did not command a majority in the House. Wickremesinghe had earlier in the day in a letter to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya demanded an emergency session to prove his majority in parliament.
Wickremesinghe has been asserting that the swearing in of Rajapaksa in his place is “illegal and unconstitutional”.
Addressing the media along with his constituent party leaders, the UNP leader said, “This is a created crisis, there is no need for this crisis.
The people must not suffer because of this at a difficult time for them.” He said the crisis could be resolved with no difficulty if the parliament was convened. “I can prove majority on the floor of the House,” Wickremesinghe said.
Sirisena formalised the sacking of his former ally by issuing two extraordinary gazette notices. First notice was on Wickremesinghe being removed as prime minister and the other on the appointment of Rajapaska as the new premier. Sirisena also ordered the removal of Prime Minister’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake as reported by PTI.
The prime minister’s secretary has been removed according to the powers vested with the president as the appointing authority. Responding to Sirisena in writing, Wickremesinghe said he is still the “constitutionally appointed Prime Minister” of Sri Lanka.
“I write to inform you that I am the constitutionally appointed Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and continue in that office and that I command the confidence of Parliament as contemplated in article 42(4) of the constitution,” he said in letter.
Speaker Jayasuriya would now have to decide if he recognised Rajapaksa or Wickremesinghe as the prime minister. The Joint Opposition group of Rajapaksa backers claimed that the controversial strongman has a clear majority.
Prof GL Peiris of the JO frontliner said the unity government of Sirisena and Wickremesinghe ceased to exist the moment Sirisena’s party, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), announced that it had withdrawn from it.
“So there is no cabinet from that moment. When the unity government arrangement ended the cabinet needs to be pruned under 30 members,” he said. He said when the cabinet stands dissolved the prime minister will have to be either removed or resign himself.