Sri Lanka legislators in new bid to oust Rajapaksa
ECONOMYNEXT – An overwhelming majority of MPs have challenged in the Court of Appeal the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister in another twist in a power struggle that enters its second month on Monday.
With the finalisation of Hansards for the stormy parliamentary sessions from November 14 to 16, a total of 122 legislators are seeking a writ or legal action requiring Rajapaksa to show by what authority he claims the office of prime minister.
It has become increasingly clear that President Maithripala Sirisena had failed to muster 113 legislators, the minimum required for an absolute majority in the 225-member House, to prop up his nominee for prime minister.
On Friday, the Sirisena-Rajapaksa duo suffered another humiliation in parliament when they lost control of the “selection committee” which decides on the agenda of the legislature.
MPs voted 121 in favour of taking control of the selection committee by the UNP, TNA and the JVP. Unable to face a vote in the chamber, the Sirisena-Rajapaksa loyalists walked out of the chamber.
United National Party (UNP) legislator Ajith Perera said the collective petition will be supported in the coming week as they have proved four times in the legislature that Sirisena and Rajapaksa did not enjoy a majority in the house.
On November 5, Sirisena had announced he had lined up 113 MPs when he sacked Wickremesinghe on October 26. If that is the case, his support base appears to be declining as the power struggle enters its second month on Monday.
The petitioners from the UNP, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vikumti Peramuna (JVP) argue that following a no-confidence motion on November 14, Rajapaksa and his men cannot claim to hold any office.
The Hansard of November 14 confirms the proceedings of the House when the “purported government” was defeated in a no-confidence motion. The following day’s Hansard records Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s announcement that he does not recognise any government.
Speaker Jayasuriya declared that there was no government in Sri Lanka since November 14 as President Maithripala Sirisena had failed to appoint a replacement administration.
The November 16 Hansard shows the House passing another resolution expressing that it does not have any confidence in Rajapaksa dealing another devastating blow.
On November 15. The House had also rejected Rajapakse’s statement to parliament which he wanted to make as prime minister, but was disallowed as the Speaker would not recognise anyone as the prime minister.
Despite three votes in parliament against him, Rajapaksa refuses to step down.
Ranil Wickremesinghe who was controversially sacked on October 26 also maintains that he is still prime minister and refuses to vacate the official Temple Trees residence.
The JVP maintains that neither Rajapaksa nor Wickremesinghe have a right to enjoy the perquisites of the office of prime minister based on Speaker’s November 15 announcement that there is no government in the country.
The latest legal challenge to Rajapaksa compounds problems for Sirisena whose November 9 gazette dissolving parliament is being challenged in the Supreme Court.
A three judge-bench, headed by Chief Justice Nalin Perera, unanimously decided on November 13 to stay the sacking of the legislature and allow the petition to go ahead. Hearing begins on December 4 and a verdict is most likely on December 7.
With speculation that a court decision may be unfavourable for Sirisena, his loyalist S. B. Dissanayake urged the president last week to revoke the November 9 gazette and restore the status quo. (COLOMBO, November 24, 2018)