Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday suspended the Parliament after dismissed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called for an emergency assembly to prove his majority, aggravating the political turmoil in the country.
Sirisena's move is being perceived by the Wickremesinghe camp as an effort to allow his pick for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa sufficient time to seek a majority in the house. The Parliament, which will be suspended until November 16, was earlier due to assemble on November 5 to reveal the 2019 annual budget.
In the 225-member house, the Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine holds only 95 seats, falling short of a simple majority. Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) holds 106 seats on its own with falling short of majority by only seven seats.
UNP claims that this move by President Sirisena sought to prorogue the parliament as Rajapaksa failed to grasp a majority in the House. An urgent appeal by Wickremesinghe led to summons for an emergency session of the house as he asserted that the nature of Rajapaksa’s swearing in was ‘illegal and unconstitutional’
Wickremesinghe said, “I can prove majority on the floor of the House,” and proclaimed that the crisis could be resolved with ease if the Parliament was summoned. Addressing the media along with his constituent party leaders, he said, “This is a created crisis, there is no need for this crisis. The people must not suffer because of this at a difficult time for them."
Sirisena on October 26 formalised the sacking of his former ally by issuing two gazette notices. The first notice was on Wickremesinghe being removed as Prime Minister and the other on the appointment of Rajapaksa as his replacement.
National Unity Government (NUG) was formed; Sirisena was elected President with Wickremesinghe's support
February: The Unity Government, coalition of two leaders Wickremesinghe and Sirisena was thrown in crisis after Rajapaksa's new party pulled off a victory in local elections
April: Wickremesinghe successfully defeated a no trust motion in parliament engineered by Sirisena with backing from Rajapaksa
October: Fallout between President Sirisena and axed PM Wickremesinghe over the past year due to differences on policy-front led to replacement of the PM position.
UNP supporters protested outside Temple Trees, the official residence of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister in Colombo, against the decision taken by the president to sack Wickremesinghe. Amidst the chaos, the leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress has announced his firm backing to Wickremesinghe. Along with him, two other constituent party leaders from minority Tamil and Muslim parties Mano Ganesan, Palani Digambaram and Rishath Bathiyutheen have announced their support for Wickremesinghe.
While President Sirisena in the letter stated that Wickremesinghe has been sacked from the Prime Minister's position according to article 42(4) of the constitution, responding to Sirisena in writing, Wickremesinghe said he is still the "constitutionally appointed Prime Minister" of Sri Lanka.
"I write to inform you that I am the constitutionally appointed Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and continue in that office and that I command the confidence of Parliament as contemplated in article 42(4) of the constitution, the letter said.
Sirisena, with the Presidential powers vested with him, even sacked Prime Minister's Secretary Saman Ekanayake. He replaced the Director of the Government Information Department appointing Nalaka Kaluwewa as the acting Director of the Government Information Department.
Sirisena’s move to sack Wickremesinghe is identified as the culmination of acrimony shared between the two on policy issues over the year, especially on security and economy policies.
In April, Wickremesinghe successfully defeated a no-trust motion in parliament engineered by Sirisena with backing from Rajapaksa. The political developments emerged after Sirisena's broader political front United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) announced the decision to resign the current unity government with Wickremesinghe's UNP.
The Unity Government was formed back in 2015 after Sirisena sworn in as the President with the support of Wickremesinghe, putting an end to a near decade-long rule by Rajapaksa. His (Rajapaksa's) apparent return to power comes as a hiccup to the three-year-long coalition government formed by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe with a mutual objective to curb corruption and induce financial stability.