Sri Lankan president suspends Parliament after sacking PM

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday suspended Parliament for two weeks amid a potential constitutional crisis after he abruptly sacked the country’s prime minister and named his predecessor to the post.

Well-wishers wait to meet newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the entrance to his official residence at Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Saturday. Photo by M.A. Pushpa Kumara/EPA-EFE
Well-wishers wait to meet newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the entrance to his official residence at Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Saturday. Photo by M.A. Pushpa Kumara/EPA-EFE

Late Friday, Sirisena ousted Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and swore in Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place.

Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe each maintains that they are the rightful prime minister, but some government ministers said the shakeup was illegal.

“I am addressing you as the prime minister of Sri Lanka. I still hold the majority of the house,” Wickremesinghe said, addressing the public Friday. “Convene Parliament and I will prove it.”

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He said a formal count must be taken in Parliament in order to determine the rightful prime minister. Sirisena suspended Parliament until Nov. 16, though did not formally dissolve the legislative body.

The New York Times reported an informal tally shows Sirisena has the support of 98 seats in Parliament, less than half the 225 required to secure a majority.

“Of course we have more than 130 seats in Parliament, definitely,” said Namal Rajapaksa, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son. “We are already working on our policies to stabilize the economy and provide social stability.”

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Rajapaksa served as president before Sirisena, but lost out to him in the 2015 presidential election. Sirisena and Wickremesinghe joined forces during the election, with the latter promising to hold accountable those behind alleged atrocities committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war, which ended in 2009 and left between 80,000 and 100,000 dead.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera called the move “an anti-democratic coup” because the prime minister cannot be sacked by the president.

Critics have accused of Rajapaksa of human rights abuses. He was president in 2009, when government forces allegedly killed Tamil civilians to end the civil war.

ByDanielle Haynes