Sri Lankan Tamils push parliament to end crisis

Sirisena has been Sri Lanka's president since 2015

Sirisena has been Sri Lanka's president since 2015

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena announced on Sunday (Nov 4) that parliament would reconvene a week later than expected, prolonging a bitter power struggle that has crippled the country.

Sri Lankan Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Monday slammed President Maithripala Sirisena, saying it was "anti-democratic" to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and suspend the Parliament, and asserted that he will not recognise Mahinda Rajapaksa as the premier unless it is proved by a floor test.

Sirisena suspended parliament the day after his move on October 26, and both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa are claiming to be prime minister in a situation that is being closely monitored by foreign governments who worry about democratic backsliding. However, as corruption remains a large problem for Sri Lankan democracy, expect such a decision to be marred by allegations of bribery.

Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours.

Wickremesinghe says his dismissal was illegal as he commands a greater majority in parliament than Mahinda Rajapakse, the former strongman president controversially installed in his place.

Wickremesinghe, who has challenged his dismissal and vowed to remain prime minister until parliament voted him out, said there were worldwide concerns about a government led by Rajapaksa.

Sirisena was supported by Wickremesinghe three years ago but the two men have gradually drifted apart, leading to Wickremesinghe's shock sacking last month.

"The majority of members are of the view that the changes ... are unconstitutional and against traditions", Speaker Jayasuriya said in a statement.

This follows a warning from the European Union that it could withdraw duty-free concessions for Sri Lankan exports if it didn't stick to commitments on national reconciliation.

Supporters of Rajapaksa at the rally chanted "Whose power is this?" It means that the speaker still recognizes a Wickremesinghe-led Parliament.

On Saturday, the Tamil National Alliance - an ethnic minority Tamil party - said it will support a no-confidence motion to be brought against Rajapaksa, after one lawmaker from their party joined Rajapaksa's government.

The President made the decision after his party, United People's Freedom Alliance (UFPA), pulled out of the national unity government which he formed with Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP). He was also critical of investigations into military personnel accused of human rights violations during the civil war. The President also requested former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to let the new government proceed with its business without any hindrance.

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