Sacked Sri Lankan PM ‘confident’ of Parliament support
Colombo, Nov. 1 (IANS): Sri Lanka’s sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday said he had the support of Parliament as the island nation grappled with an unprecedented constitutional crisis following his ouster by President Maithripala Sirisena.
“I still remain the Prime Minister and I have the confidence of the majority of members of the House,” Wickremesinghe told the BBC from his official residence Temple Trees.
The President removed Wickremesinghe, sacked the Cabinet and suspended Parliament last week and appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister.
However, Wickremesinghe has refused to leave office, calling the move illegal. The crisis sparked protests and violence in the country that is facing an extraordinary situation where two people are claiming to run the government.
“The Constitution states that the President must appoint as Prime Minister the person who commands the confidence of Parliament and I am the person who has that. We have asked for the summoning of Parliament so I can prove my majority in the House,” Wickremesinghe said.
His United National Party (UNP) demanded that the House be convened soon and Rajapaksa suggested that this could happen at the start of next week. No date has yet been confirmed, the BBC reported.
Wickremesinghe’s supporters had been gathering at Temple Trees since the day he was sacked. The BBC cited his aides as saying that it was a way to prevent any use of force to remove the ousted Prime Minister from the house.
Meanwhile, in another part of Colombo, Rajapaksa has begun work. The official website of the Prime Minister has been updated to show his photo and profile. Posters congratulating him have been put up all over Colombo’s streets.
In a statement released earlier this week, Rajapaksa said: “I was aware that at this moment of national peril, the people expected our leadership and protection.
“Hence, I accepted the invitation extended to me by the President to assume the position of Prime Minister.”
Rajapaksa is a popular but controversial figure who ended Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009 but faced criticism for the means by which he achieved victory. Many thousands of Tamil civilians are said to have been killed by government forces in the final months of the fighting.