Lankan President convenes parliament on November 14 following public outcry

Lankan President convenes parliament on November 14 following public outcry

Colombo, November 4 ( Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday issued a gazette stating that parliament will meet on November 14. The 225-member House was prorogued from October 27 to November 15 and was to meet on November 16.

Sirisena advanced the session by two days in response to the domestic and international outcry for an early session to settle the issue of the sacking of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26.

Sirisena suddenly replaced Wickremesinghe by Mahinda Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), an ally of the President’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

The replacement followed the withdrawal of the UPFA (including the SLFP) from the Wickremesinghe-led coalition government.

The replacement ,which was widely criticized, rested on the constitutional provision that if a political group in the coalition withdraws support, the coalition automatically collapses, the cabinet ceases to function, and the Prime Minister goes with it.

The President can then appoint as Prime Minister any member of parliament, who in his opinion, commands the confidence of parliament.

In Sirisena’s opinion, Rajapaksa commanded parliament’s confidence and was appointed Prime Minister.

But the Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine had only 95 MPs in the House of 225 and needed 113 to show majority support.

To facilitate the accretion of support in parliament. the President prorogued parliament from October 27 to November 15 and said that House’s  proceedings will begin on November 16.

This set off an uproar in political circles and the international community represented by the US-led Western Bloc. They vigorously protested and demanded that parliament be convened without delay to settle the matter through a vote.

Even the UN Secretary General spoke to President Sirisena on the phone criticizing the manner in which the regime change was effected, and urging him to convene parliament soonest.

While staunchly maintaining that the sacking of Wickremesinghe and the appointment of Rajapaksa in his place was constitutional, both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Rajapaksa appeared to be wanting to convene parliament on November 5.

But apparently because the expected migration from the UNF to the government side did not take place in the numbers expected, they  backed out of the commitment.

The government also wanted time to prepare an economic program that would be populist so that, if a snap election is called, it will have an edge over the UNF. The regime in the meanwhile, announced a number of price cuts touching a wide range of commodities of common use including food items and fuel.

Meanwhile, the UNF announced that it has submitted to parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, a Motion of No Confidence in the government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa.

If the Rajapaksa government fails to defeat the Vote of No Confidence, it has to resign. But this does not mean that the President will necessarily call upon Wickremesinghe to form the government instead. He could call any MP, who in his opinion, enjoys the confidence of parliament.

It is rumored that he would call on Sajith Premadasa, a rival of Wickremesinghe’s in the UNF, to form the government. This could result in the UNF’s splitting. If it does split, the Sirisena-Rajapaksa group gets strengthened both inside and outside parliament.

However, the Sirisena-Rajapaksa group says that it will survive any parliamentary test as it has gathered more than the 113 required to stay in office.

“We are releasing the names in installments to keep the UNF guessing,” said the new government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella.


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