Sri Lankan Tamils push parliament to end crisis

Sergio Conner
November 8, 2018

Critics of Sirisena's actions say Parliament was suspended to give Rajapaksa time to gather enough support to survive a no-confidence vote when lawmakers reconvene November 14.

Supporters of Rajapaksa at the rally chanted "Whose power is this?"

TNA legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan said the president had called the Tamil legislators to a meeting on Wednesday - the same day parliament was originally expected to reconvene.

"Countries are sensitive, they have concerns (about a government led by Rajapaksa) democratic countries have concerns", he said in the interview conducted in the prime minister's official residence in a colonial-era bungalow where Wickremesinghe is camping along with his supporters.

On October 27, Sirisena prorogued Parliament till November 16, but on the evening of October 28, he issued a special gazette notification saying Parliament would convene on November 14.

The speaker in Sri Lanka's parliament said he can't recognize newly-appointed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa until he proves a majority in the legislature.

Addressing the "Jana Mahimaya" political rally organized by UPFA and several political groups in support of the present government at the Parliamentary Roundabout today, President Sirisena said the appointment was made in accordance with the Constitution and within the legal framework of the country. Parliamentarians are also favouring the ousted PM along with the speaker.

Sirisena and Rajapaksa arrived at the rally amid loud cheers.

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"The majority of members are of the view that the changes ... are unconstitutional and against traditions", Speaker Jayasuriya said in a statement.

"We have united to work for the people", Rajapakse said, referring to their previous rivalry when Sirisena defeated him for the presidency in 2015.

He said that farmers, government servants, fishermen, and the working mass who were gripped by the economic principles of Ranil Wickremesinghe should be freed.

He said he fired the prime minister because Wickremesinghe was trying to implement "a new, extreme liberal political concept by giving more priority for foreign policies and neglecting the local people's sentiment".

The Tamil National Alliance, a coalition of parties representing the Tamils, vowed on Sunday that its 15 members would back the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa. He has been accused by diplomats of human rights abuses during the war, which he denies.

The unity government was formed in 2015 when Sirisena was elected President with Wickremesinghe's support, ending a almost decade-long rule by Rajapaksa. "The public must protest the way the MPs are being brought for money", Abeywardena said.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) party, which has seven lawmakers, said its members had also rejected offers to join the Sirisena-Rajapakse camp.

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