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News > World

Sri Lanka: Gov't in Total Standstill Amid Political Turmoil

  • Sri Lanka's Parliament members erupt into arguments Wednesday.

    Sri Lanka's Parliament members erupt into arguments Wednesday. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 November 2018

A no-confidence vote against newly-appointed prime minister Rajapaksa has halted the Sri Lankan government. Rajapaksa is accused of human rights abuses.

Sri Lanka’s government was grounded to a standstill after a Parliamentary no-confidence vote Wednesday against the recently appointed prime minister and his government.


Sri Lanka: After No-Confidence Vote, Speaker Says Sacking ex-PM Was 'Non-Violent Coup

The Speaker of Parliament declared there was no functioning prime minister nor cabinet after parliament passed the motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa with the backing of 122 of the 225 lawmakers.

President Maithripala Sirisena said in a letter to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya that he could not accept the no-confidence vote because it appeared to ignore the constitution, parliamentary procedure, as well as tradition.

The country's Supreme Court ordered Tuesday the suspension of an earlier presidential decree dissolving Parliament and calling for an early election until petitions that challenged the move as unconstitutional were heard.

Speaking in Parliament, Rajapaksa demanded a general election to end the current political crisis.

Soon after his speech, Rajapaksa's supporters came onto the Parliament floor and disrupted proceedings. MPs from both sides gathered around the Speaker's chair shouting.

The turmoil lasted nearly 20 minutes. Speaker Jayasuriya, who failed to bring the house to order, left Parliament without making any statement, Reuters reports.

TV footage later showed Rajapaksa supporters pulling the speaker's microphone away, preventing him from making any further statement.

The island, off the Southeast coast of India, has been riddled with political turmoil for weeks, since President Sirisena ousted former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa on Oct. 26.

A former president, Rajapaksa is accused of human rights abuses during his time in power from 2005 to 2015. He ruled during the end of Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war.

Sirisena has faced international criticism for the move, which critics say plunged the country into crisis at a time when economic growth is at its weakest pace in 16 years.

"This president has ignored the constitution. He has to accept the no-confidence vote held yesterday," Wickremesinghe told a gathering of supporters. "We are ready to face both presidential and parliamentary polls, but they should be done in line with the constitution."

Rajapaksa-Sirisena’s supporters say that Wickremesinghe is backed by Western nations who they say interfere in Sri Lankan matters.

Days after removing Wickremesinghe from power, Sirisena announced that the decision was a matter of life and death -- a cabinet member of Wickremesinghe was allegedly plotting to assassinate him.

Sirisena did not name the cabinet member.

In the immediate fallout of the sacking, which Wickremesinghe called “unconstitutional,” violent clashes in the streets between supporters lead to one death by gunshot and two injuries.

Rajapaksa and Sirisena have had an on-again-off-again political relationship for years. Sirisena was a member of former President Rajapaksa's cabinet but cut ties before the 2015 elections. This year they forged a new partnership through Rajapaksa appointment as prime minister.

After convening with party leaders, Jayasuriya's office said Parliament would meet Friday.

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