Sri Lanka president suffers first major setback in ‘coup’

ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena suffered a crucial setback Tuesday when a person appointed as a deputy minister defected to the United National Party reversing a string of crossovers and raising serious doubts about the viability of his disputed government.

Manusha Nanayakkara, who on November 1 was sworn in as deputy minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, did a back flip saying he accepted Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s position that Mahinda Rajapaksa was not the legitimate prime minister.

The latest defection came hours after Sirisena announced publicly that people should not doubt his majority – 113 in the 225-member legislature.  By his own count, Sirisena is now down to 112 with the defection of Nanayakkara.

“Amidst the thundering applause of the massive crowds, the President also said that the new government headed by him without any doubt would have a majority of 113 in Parliament,” the president’s office said Tuesday releasing a report on his speech  at a mass rally near parliament on Monday.

There had been media reports that MPs were offered up to 500 million rupees and an apartment in Malaysia to defect to the Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp. 

A deputy minister under Wickremesinghe, Ranjan Ramanayake, accused China of bankrolling Rajapaksa’s alleged buying of MPs, but the Chinese embassy vehemently denied the charge.

Nanayakkara noted that not a single country had recognized the government Sirisena controversially installed on October 26. Controversially sacked Wickremesinghe insists that he is still the prime minister, a position endorsed by the Speaker.

The Attorney-General Jayantha Jayasuriya too has refused to publicly endorse the actions of the President who had failed to consult the Attorney General’s department before carrying out his actions on the night of October 26. 

Sirisena had also issued a backdated gazette, a move that raises doubts about the legality of the exercise.






There was no immediate reaction to Nanayakkara’s defection from the Sirisena – Rajapaksa camp.

UNP’s Ajith Perera told reporters more defections are expected to follow.

Wickremesinghe’s State Minister of Finance, Eran Wickramaratne, said Sirisena had been blocking corruption and murder investigations against members of the former Rajapaksa regime.

He said the Constitutional Council’s rejection last month of Sirisena’s nomination of a corrupt Rajapaksa loyalist judge to the Supreme Court also angered the president and precipitated the constitutional coup.

However, Wickramaratne said the UNP had more than 113 MPs to defeat Sirisena’s coup when parliament is reconvened on November 14. (COLOMBO, November 6, 2018)

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