Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Sri Lanka president 'dissolves parliament' amid deepening crisis

Sri Lanka president 'dissolves parliament' amid deepening crisis

"The US is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis", the US State Department said in a statement on Twitter.

Sirisena announced the move in an official gazette notification on Friday, and set snap elections for the 225-member legislature on January 5. Later, the president said he had to fire Wickramasinghe because one of his ministers was involved in a "plot to assassinate" the head of state himself.

The dissolution comes following the unprecedented political turmoil after Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, replacing him by Rajapakse. Wickremesinghe has insisted his firing is unconstitutional and demanded that Parliament be summoned to prove his majority.

Global concern has grown over the mounting turmoil, with Wickremesinghe refusing to leave the premier's official residence while the president also suspended parliament to head off any revolt against his action. "We are prepared to go for an election, but this is illegal".

Relations between Wickremesinghe and Sirisena became strained this year after their coalition was defeated in local elections by a Rajapaksa-backed party. "We will be fighting this to ensure that democracy reigns supreme in the country".

Former Sri Lankan president and the man who was sworn in as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa supported the dissolution, and said, "As leaders, it is our responsibility and obligation to give the people the opportunity to voice their opinions on the future of #SriLanka".

Sirisena had suspended the assembly's work until mid-November when first moving against his prime minister.

"At the moment we have 104 or 105 MPs", UPFA's spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters, adding that the Sirisena-Rajapakse group hoped to secure support from "crossover" legislators. "The best thing to do now is go for an election".

Given those views, it was not immediately clear how Sirisena can legally dissolve parliament, though his legal experts have said there are provisions for him to do so. At least eight have switched sides, but at least 120 deputies in the 225-seat parliament remain loyal to Wickramasinghe.

The next elections weren't due until 2020, and under the constitution, the president can dissolve parliament only after completion of 4 1/2 years of its term.

The EU, in a joint statement with Norway and Switzerland, called for parliament to reconvene and hold an immediate vote.

The power struggle on the island of 21 million people has paralysed much of the administration, according to legislators on both sides of the dispute.

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