Sri Lanka president suffers setback in parliament vote
AFP – Sri Lanka’s deposed prime minister secured control of a key committee in parliament Friday, dealing a blow to President Maithripala Sirisena in the latest twist in a month-long political crisis.
A vote gave Ranil Wickremesinghe control of a selection committee entrusted with setting the legislative agenda in the absence of a working government.
Sri Lanka has been politically paralysed since October 26 when Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and replaced him with divisive former president Mahinda Rajapakse.
Shortly before Speaker Karu Jayasuriya took a vote by name on setting up the panel, legislators loyal to Sirisena and Rajapakse walked out of the chamber in a protest.
Rajapakse has lost two no-confidence votes in the assembly, but refuses to step down.
Wickremesinghe who was sacked on October 26 insists he is still in office and continues to occupy his official residence.
Last week, riots broke out in the assembly with Sirisena and Rajapakse loyalists attacking rivals with chilli powder and chairs to disrupt the second no-confidence motion against Rajapakse.
Two weeks after sacking Wickremesinghe, Sirisena initially suspended parliament and then dissolved it on November 9, calling snap elections for January 5.
However these moves were suspended by the Supreme Court on November 13 pending an investigation. The legislature reconvened the following day but degenerated into a punch-up.
For 19 days, Sri Lanka had two claimants to the prime minister’s post — but since November 15 parliament speaker Jayasuriya held that he would recognise neither.
The crippling power struggle has led to a downgrade of Sri Lanka’s credit rating.
The authorities announced Thursday that they will halt any sovereign bond issues as international borrowing costs had shot up following a credit downgrade of the country as a result of the political crisis.
Legislators on both sides say that with the administration at a standstill, key sectors such as tourism in the Indian Ocean island popular with visitors suffering badly.