Court challenge after Sri Lankan president dissolves parliament

Geraldine Edwards
November 12, 2018

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday dissolved parliament and called a snap election after failing to gain enough support for his nominee for prime minister, deepening the island's political crisis with a gamble deemed illegal by the ousted premier's party.

The Government today asserted that the decision taken by President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve Parliament and set dates for elections in January, is legal and Constitutional.

The dissolution seems to have deepened the political crisis that was triggered by Sirisena'a replacing of Ranil Wickremesinghe with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, rather than abate it.

Jayasuriya, earlier, accused Sirisena of "usurping" the rights of legislators.

Mangala Samaraweera, an ally of Wickremesinghe, said their party expects the court to rule that the dissolution of parliament was illegal and that eventually a vote in parliament will be held to test whether there is a majority.

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Foreign Minister Sarath Amunugama told The Associated Press on Saturday that the president felt it was necessary to dissolve Parliament and go to the people to find a resolution to the crisis. Sirisena signed an official order dismissing Sri Lanka's 225-member assembly after his party lost to prove strength in support of ex-president Mahinda Rajapakse. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.

Speaking to The Wire, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kuamar Dissanayake said the announcement of a snap poll is unacceptable primarily because it violates the 19th Amendment to the constitution and second, if the desired result is not achieved, there is the threat of the president taking further undemocratic steps, causing extensive political instability.

Under pressure from the United Nations, United States and the European Union to allow a parliament vote, Sirisena agreed three times to lift the suspension but changed his mind each time.

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. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

It said democracy needed to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity. "We will fight this dictator to the end".

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Rajapakse and ousted Wickremesinghe have been battling for power for two weeks as global concern grew over the mounting turmoil in the strategically important island nation.

"Any further delay could damage Sri Lanka's global reputation and deter investors", the statement said.

Mr Rajapaksa and 44 former politicians of the Sirisena-led centre-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Sunday joined Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP), a political party formed in 2016 by Mr Rajapaksa's younger brother Basil, a former economy minister.

Rajapaksa indicated what was coming hours before the dissolution in a speech.

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