Ethnic Tamil party pledges vote against Sri Lankan strongman

Geraldine Edwards
November 5, 2018

Newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, who was sworn in last Friday after the president sacked Wickremesinghe, told journalists on Thursday that President Sirisena had informed him that the parliament would convene on November 5 in order to settle the ongoing political crisis.

Wickremesinghe had demanded the convening of Parliament, saying he still controls a majority of lawmakers.

In a statement, the TNA Saturday said Rajapaksa's appointment was a violation of the Constitution's 19th amendment.

Wickremesinghe was sacked mainly over the accusation that he had failed to take strong steps to investigate the alleged plot to assassinate President Maithripala Sirisena.

"The Secretary-General urged the President to revert to parliamentary procedures and allow Parliament to vote as soon as possible". The session has been set for Wednesday, the speaker of parliament has said.

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Wickremesinghe has refused to accept his dismissal, claiming to be the country's legitimate premier.

So far Wickremesinghe has 103 MPs while Rajapaksa has 100 in the 225-member assembly.

Kabir Hasheem, the UNP chairman and, until last week, the government's minister of highways and road development, said other lawmakers described similar offers, but most MPs were not selling out.

During this meeting, the President apprised the United Nations representative regarding the prevailing political situation in Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa's party dismissed the allegation.

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"Rajapaksa is known only for two things, the brutal quelling of the Tamil insurgency and outright support to China in a manner that goes against the interest of the country and negates its historic relationship with India", remarked Colonel Jaibans Singh (retired), a strategic affairs expert and Indian Army veteran.

Prior to the crisis, Wickramasinghe's UNP had the backing of 106 parliamentarians while Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine had 95 seats.

Among the causes for the animosity between Wickremesinghe and Sirisena is Wickremesinghe's refusal to back the president's bid to stand in the next election in late 2019.

Rajapakse loyalists are arranging a mass rally on Monday near the parliament complex to support to what the local media has dubbed a "constitutional coup".

Sirisena was under increasing pressure by his political opponents, rights groups and foreign governments including the United States to summon Parliament and end the crisis.

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