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Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena dismisses parliament

11 November 2018

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved Parliament on Friday evening, AFP reported quoting an unidentified minister. But the attempted switch failed after Rajapaksa's forces failed to convince enough MPs to join their new coalition - prompting Sirisena to gamble on fresh polls.

The dissolution is the latest twist in a constitutional crisis that began October 26 when Sirisena unexpectedly fired Ranil Wickremesinghe, who served since 2015 as prime minister in a unity government with Sirisena.

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. Wickremesinghe, who called his sudden dismissal illegal, has urged Parliament to convene immediately to prove his majority in the 225-member unicameral chamber.

"It's totally unconstitutional", said Harsha de Silva, a member of Wickremesinghe's United National Party and a former minister.

He said Sirisena had "kicked the constitution in the teeth" when he dismissed the assembly after failing to muster a majority to legitimise his replacement prime minister Mahinda Rajapakse after a two-week stand off. "Maithripala Sirisena dissolved a parliament where we enjoyed a majority", he said.

The U.S State Department tweeted that it is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, "further deepening the political crisis".

One of them said Sirisena was right to order an election to end the political crisis.

However, the Extraordinary Gazette Notification issued by the President says he dissolved the parliament "by virtue of the powers vested in me by paragraph (5) of Article 70 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to be read with paragraph (2) (c), of Article 33 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and paragraph (2) of the Article 62 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and in pursuance of the provisions of Section 10 of the Parliamentary Election Act, No. 01 of 1981".

"It was a follow-up action to the executive's earlier actions - removing the prime minister, appointing a new prime minister and proroguing parliament". Former President Rajapaksa drifted close to Beijing during his 2005-2015 rule, while Wickramasinghe is considered closer to India and pro-Western.

Dinesh Gunawardena, a government minister from Sirisena's party alleged that parliament was dissolved because of the conduct of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.

Sri Lanka boasts a key strategic location in relation to global shipping lines. "Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper".

Rajapaksa, 72, was prime minister for two weeks without ever stepping into parliament.

"We will fight the emerging tyranny of Sirisena".

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

Earlier, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and two other lawmakers wrote to Sirisena warning that actions circumventing the democratic process could impact U.S. assistance - including a planned five-year aid package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Now we have a caretaker government with limited functions", Premajayantha said.

Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena dismisses parliament