State media: Sri Lanka president dissolves Parliament

Saul Bowman
November 12, 2018

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena says he made a decision to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections to avoid possible violence in Parliament in the event a vote was taken to decide on who commands the majority support to become prime minister.

Sirisena signed an official notification dismissing the 225-member assembly with effect from midnight, clearing the way for a snap election almost two years ahead of schedule.

Before he signed the papers dissolving parliament and calling the election, Sirisena appointed allies of his and of Rajapaksa to cabinet positions. The new Parliament is to convene on Jan 17.

He has refused to vacate his official residence.

The election is likely to be held in early January after the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) said they were eight legislators short of a majority in the 225-member assembly that remains suspended.

Sri Lanka has been in a crisis since October 26, when Sirisena fired his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Wickremesinghe insisted his firing is unconstitutional.

"He gave illegal orders in defiance of the president", Gunawardena said referring to Jayasuriya's assertion that parliament must hold a floor test to prove the legality of the appointment of Rajapaksa as prime minister replacing Wickremesinghe.

Following the sacking, the president suspended parliament in a move which Wickremesinghe said was meant to prevent the ousted prime minister from contesting the decision in the legislature.

Pro- democratic Sri Lankans take part in a candle light vigil in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018.

He named Mahinda Rajapakse as the new leader, but appeared to dissolve parliament and call elections as he had failed to gain enough parliamentary votes to secure backing for the move. Later, owing to domestic and global pressure, he issued a notice to reconvene parliament on November 14. However, the decision to dissolve the house shows otherwise, observers say.

"At the end of the day, he is a victim of his own homegrown crisis".

"You cannot read the constitution in one provision in isolation - you have to read it as a whole, especially when amendments have been brought", he said, adding that "before the 19th amendment, the president could dissolve Parliament at will after one year".

Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday denied web media reports, that he would wait for the Supreme Court's opinion on the legality of the dissolution of Parliament before proceeding with preparations for a General Election.

Rajapakse and ousted Wickremesinghe have been battling for power for two weeks as global concern grew over the mounting turmoil in the strategically important island nation. "The US is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis", it said in a statement.

Rajapaksa, who led Sri Lanka for a decade before he lost to Sirisena and Wickremesinghe in 2015, has defended the push for a new election as a way to bring stability to the country. The only other legal ways would be through a referendum, or with the consent of two thirds of lawmakers.

"The party will be pursuing the intervention of the courts to ensure the rule of law and the Constitution is protected against autocratic moves", a UNP statement said.

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