Sunday, 16 December, 2018

US, EU denounce dissolution of Sri Lanka parliament

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena
Andrew Cummings | 12 November, 2018, 03:12

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena said Sunday that he chose to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections to avoid possible violence in Parliament in the event a vote was taken to decide on who commands the majority support to become prime minister.

The Agence France-Presse cited an unnamed minister as saying that "the election is likely to be held in early January" rather than the scheduled date in 2020.

On October 26, Sirisena abruptly sacked Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, after three-and-a-half years of an estranged relationship with him. Rajapaksa needed the support of minimum 113 parliamentarians in the 225-member House to prove his majority.

"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament", said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director the South Asia Center, affiliated with the US-based Atlantic Council.

Dayasiri Jayasekara, a cabinet minister, has expressed his support for Sirisena's decision to dissolve the legislature.

Wickremesinghe insisted his dismissal was illegal and unconstitutional and refused to vacate the official residence of the premier.

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Former Speaker V.J.M. Lokubandara when contacted by the Sunday Observer said that once Parliament is dissolved, there was nothing else to do than go for elections. Former President Rajapaksa drifted close to Beijing during his 2005-2015 rule, while Wickramasinghe is considered closer to India and pro-Western.

Later Sirisena agreed to reconvene parliament on november 14, but that will now not happen.

Sri Lanka's new prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and 44 former lawmakers have defected from the party led by President Maithripala Sirisena, splitting with the president barely two weeks after he installed Rajapaksa in office.

The United National Party (UNP), which holds the most seats in parliament, said the president had "kicked the constitution in the teeth" with his latest move. "Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper".

The EU said Friday, before the dissolution, that the crisis had scarred the Indian Ocean island's worldwide reputation. A spokeswoman for the European Union's foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the move "risks undermining public confidence in the country's democratic institutions and processes and further deepens the political and economic crisis in the country".

"We appeal to everyone to get together to safeguard democratic rights and the basic law of the country", he said adding they would take part in a broader alliance to fight the "injustice" at the election. The only other legal ways would be through a referendum, or with the consent of two thirds of lawmakers. He said the government must go to the people for confirmation on whether the president made the correct decision when he appointed him as prime minister. "We will be fighting this to ensure that Democracy reigns supreme in the country", the party said on Twitter.

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