Sri Lanka opposition warns of military take over

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s opposition Saturday warned of a possible military takeover of the government weeks after President Maithripala Sirisena ordered a  shakeup of the military intelligence set up.

Opposition legislator Dinesh Gunawardena said they were deprived of time during parliamentary debates and it amounted to the suppression of their rights.

"we are not given time. Our demands are not met. If parliamentary democracy is like this, it could transform into a dangerous situation," Gunawardena said in parliament while President Sirisena took a front row seat.

"If democracy is suppressed like this, there is the danger of a military coup," he said in a rare reference to a military take over which neither government nor opposition politician had speculated in recent times.

Earlier this month, President Sirisena removed the head of military intelligence and ordered a major shake up following allegations that army spies were trying to destabilise the national unity government.

President Sirisena has not carried out a purge of the military unlike his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa who sacked or replaced some 300 senior officers and men who were suspected ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka.

Following Fonseka’s unsuccessful challenge to Rajapaksa at the January 2010 elections, the then government appointed its loyalists to key positions in the security forces as well as the police, a practice that was not followed by Sirisena.

There has been no military take overs in Sri Lanka. However, there had been a coup bid in January 1962 against then prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera accused former president Mahinda Rajapaksa of trying to use military power to remain in office after losing the January 8, 2015 election to Maithripala Sirisena.

Police investigations into that alleged coup remain inconclusive while the former president denied he tried to hold onto power after losing the election. (COLOMBO, Nov 19, 2016)

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