Tue, 02 Jun 2020

Sri Lanka parliament dissolved amid major political crisis

By Sheetal Sukhija, Tajikistan News.Net
11 Nov 2018, 04:37 GMT+10

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - The Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena was widely criticized on Saturday after deciding to dissolve the country's Parliament, merely five days before it was due to reconvene. 

On Friday, Sirisena signed an official notification dissolving the country's parliament and called for fresh elections amid a deepening political crisis. 

His move dissolving the parliament became effective at midnight on Friday, and was criticized by his opponents and several other Western powers. 

On Saturday, Sirisena's opponents denounced the move was "unconstitutional."

Reacting to the move, the United National Party said in a Twitter post that it will meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of the President's move. 

Further, Harsha de Silva, a member of the party and a former minister said, "It's totally unconstitutional. Mr Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper. We will fight this dictator to the end." 

Political crisis

On October 26, Sirisena triggered a political crisis after he fired his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The President replaced United National Party's Wickremesinghe, with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.

However, Wickremesinghe insisted that his ouster was unconstitutional and refused to vacate his official residence.

Subsequently, the fired Prime Minister demanded that parliament be summoned immediately in a bid to prove that he had support among members.

As the political turmoil that he triggered escalated, Sirisena faced intense pressure to convene Parliament and end the impasse. 

Under pressure both domestically and internationally, the President then announced that the parliament would be summoned on November 14. 

However, Sirisena maintained that Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was his choice for prime minister had a majority in parliament. 

Then, on Friday, merely five days before the parliament was to convene, the President decided to dissolve the parliament.

Observers have said that Sirisena's decision might be motivated by fears of losing a vote of no confidence. 

Considering that the current parliament in the county was elected in August 2015, Wickremesinghe's camp was believed to be planning to contest Sirisena's move.

The constitutional provisions in Sri Lanka state that a parliament cannot be dissolved until four and a half years after its inception. 

International condemnation

A day after he signed the official notification dissolving the country's parliament, Sirisena's decision drew criticism from Western powers.

In his official notification, which worsened an already major political crisis in Sri Lanka, Sirisena said the names of candidates for new elections will be called before November 26.

He announced that the country would hold new elections on January 5, 2019, and that the new parliament would be convened on January 17. 

However, the U.S. State Department wrote on Twitter, "As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity."

Further, the U.S. Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said in a tweet that the United States was "deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis."

It also added that democracy needed to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity.

On Saturday, Mark Field, the British minister of State for Asia and the Pacific too tweeted his concern about the dissolution of parliament.

Field said, "As a friend of Sri Lanka, the U.K. calls on all parties to uphold the constitution and respect democratic institutions and processes."

Even Canada's Foreign Policy took to Twitter and said that it was "deeply concerned" about the decision and referred to the risks to reconciliation work after the nation's civil war.

It said, "This further political uncertainty is corrosive to Sri Lanka's democratic future and its commitments on reconciliation and accountability."

On Saturday, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne expressed concerns and said in a statement that the move "undermines Sri Lanka's long democratic tradition and poses a risk to its stability and prosperity."

Meanwhile, Sirisena's rivals are now gearing to challenge his decision in the Supreme Court on Monday.

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