Punch-up in Sri Lankan parliament
AFP – Sri Lanka’s parliament descended into chaos on Thursday with MPs swinging punches and throwing projectiles a day after legislators voted the "purported" prime minister out of office.
"It was difficult to make out immediately who was hitting whom, but several were hurt, but not seriously," an official in parliament told AFP. "The speaker adjourned the House."
The official said an MP from toppled premier Mahinda Rajapakse’s party injured himself trying to rip out the speaker’s microphone and had to be taken to hospital.
Sri Lanka has endured nearly three weeks of crisis after President Maithripala Sirisena fired Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and replaced him with Rajapakse on October 26.
Two weeks later Sirisena dissolved the strategically important Indian Ocean nation’s parliament and called snap elections for January.
However these moves were suspended by the Supreme Court on Tuesday pending an investigation.
Parliament reconvened on Wednesday and lawmakers approved a motion of no-confidence in what they called Rajapakse’s "purported" cabinet, also passing motions declaring Sirisena’s moves illegal.
Thursday’s routine parliament session, the first since Rajapakse and his disputed administration were deposed, began with the speaker announcing that the country now had no government.
"As of now, there is no prime minister, no cabinet ministers and no government in Sri Lanka," said Karu Jayasuriya, wearing his black and gold robe. "I do not recognise anyone as prime minister."
The vote ousting Rajapakse, a divisive former president and political bruiser, and the Supreme Court’s rulings were a major boost to Wickremesinghe.
The four-times prime minister, popular with Western countries for his economic reforms, had refused to leave his official residence after being fired by the president.
Addressing parliament Thursday as an ordinary member, Rajapakse asked the house to end the crisis by holding a national election.
"Let’s go for an election. We want an election, a general election," Rajapakse said.
Wickremesinghe’s party immediately moved a resolution rejecting Rajapakse’s call and demanded a vote that triggered angry protests from legislators loyal to Rajapakse and Sirisena.
Sirisena, who is vested with constitutional powers to induct a new prime minister and a cabinet of ministers, was yet to take note of Wednesday’s no-confidence motion.
On Thursday he accused Jayasuriya of violating legislative traditions, saying the signatures of 122 legislators who opposed Rajapakse had not been certified as genuine.
The president also rejected the position that he did not have the power to sack Wickremesinghe and replace him with Rajapakse.
Day-to-day administration in Sri Lanka remains paralysed as the crisis drags on.