Will not recognise Rajpaksa as Sri Lanka PM unless Parl gives nod: Speaker

Karu Jayasuriya

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.

The tough statement from Jayasuriya came after Sirisena announced on Sunday that parliament would reconvene on November 14, a week later than he had promised.

The speaker said Sirisena had gone back on previous commitments to recall parliament on November 7.

In the statement released on Monday in Sinhala, Jayasuriya said a majority of members in Parliament have submitted a petition to him stating that the changes made in Parliament recently by President Sirisena are unconstitutional.

In the name of justice and fair play I have to declare my position to the world that when a majority has pointed out that rights of the MPs have been usurped by preventing the lawful convening of parliament," Jayasuriya said.

A majority in parliament has requested that all changes made have been anti-constitutional and against the traditions. They have urged me to recognise the status quo which prevailed prior to these changes. As such I have to recognize the status quo which prevailed before until the new party would be able to prove their majority," Jayasuriya said, making it clear that he wants a parliamentary floor test.

 

As a result, Rajapaksa will not be given the Prime Minister seat in Parliament as the current government members will need to sit in the opposition seats.

Sirisena had suspended parliamentary proceedings until November 16 after abruptly firing Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and replacing him with Rajapaksa, a controversial former president, on October 26.

 

The Speaker had expected parliament to reconvene on November 7. However, Sirisena Sunday issued notice to reconvene Parliament on November 14.

Jayasuriya said he had made several requests for Parliament to be reconvened early in order to resolve the political crisis.

The civil society organisations have demanded that Jayasuriya re-summon parliament on his own. Jayasuriya, however, refused to do so saying he was powerless unless the president consented.

The decision announced last night by President Maithripala Sirisena to summon the Parliament two days ahead of his scheduled opening won't lead to the resolving of the constitutional crisis, ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremsinghe's United National Party (UNP) senior Vajira Abeywardena said on Monday.

 

"We can't treat November 14 as the date on which we can settle this issue. The law has been violated. They have delayed the date for reconvening parliament so that they could buy over MPs. The public must protest the way the MPs are being brought for money," Abeywardena said.

Wickremesinghe's suporters alleged that large sums of money had been offered to change sides.

Wickremsinghe's United National Party (UNP) on Monday said Sirisena's decision to summon parliament on November 14 will not lead to the resolving of the constitutional crisis.

 

"We can't treat November 14 as the date on which we can settle this issue. The law has been violated. They have delayed the date for reconvening parliament so that they could buy over MPs. The public must protest the way the MPs are being brought for money," UNP leader Vajira Abeywardena said,

Wickremesinghe's supporters alleged that large sums of money had been offered to change sides.

Anaylists say Sirisena's move to suspend parliament to engineer defections from the UNP and its allies appears to have succeeded.

New prime minister Rajapaksa's parliamentary strength has now been bolstered to 105 from 96.

The UNP has lost eight of its legislators while one member from the main Tamil party TNA has defected. Rajapaksa needs 113 to prove his majority in the 225-member House.

Wickremesinghe who branded Sirisena's October 26 action to sack him a constitutional coup maintains that he holds majority.

The UNP has handed over a motion of no trust against Rajapaksa.

GL Peiris, a leading Rajapaksa backer, however said the no confidence motion cannot be taken up in a hurry.

Meanwhile, both parties organised public protests on Monday.

Thousands of supporters of Rajapaksa headed for the capital on Monday to rally in support of his nomination as the prime minister.

The political crisis in Sri Lanka began after Sirisena's broader front United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) announced that it has decided to quit the unity government with Wickremesinghe's UNP.

The unity government was formed in 2015 when Sirisena was elected President with Wickremesinghe's support, ending a nearly decade-long rule by Rajapaksa.


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