I acted to prevent civil unrest: Sri Lankan President Sirisena defends parliament sacking

File photo of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Colombo, Sri Lanka Nov 11, 2018, 10.03 PM (IST)

Sri Lanka's president on Sunday defended his controversial sacking of parliament, saying violent clashes among rival MPs could have led to "civil unrest" across the country if the legislature had met.

Maithripala Sirisena said there were media reports that politicians would clash during a vote to decide between two men claiming the premiership after he controversially sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month.

"If I allowed the parliament to meet on November 14, there would have been violence in the House and it could have spread to our villagers and towns," Sirisena said in a televised address to the nation. "I acted to prevent civil unrest."

Sri Lanka's parliamentary Speaker Sunday accused President Maithripala Sirisena of "usurping" the rights of legislators and asked public servants not to carry out his "illegal orders".

Karu Jayasuriya in a hard-hitting statement said Sirisena's actions since October 26 to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and dissolve parliament undermined the freedoms of the people.

"I have watched over the last two weeks as the executive branch has seized the rights and usurped the powers of members of parliament who were elected to represent the people.

"I call upon all public servants to refuse to execute any illegal orders they may receive, no matter from whom."

Sirisena triggered an unprecedented constitutional crisis on October 26 when he sacked Wickremesinghe and replaced him with former leader Mahinda Rajapakse.

Wickremesinghe insisted his dismissal was illegal and unconstitutional and refused to vacate the official residence of the premier.

Sirisena agreed thrice to reconvene parliament which he had suspended shortly after sacking Wickremesinghe to prevent him proving his majority on the floor of the House.

Just five days before parliament was due to reconvene, Sirisena dissolved it and called snap elections for January 5.

"Since the president has prevented parliament from ruling on the legitimacy of the president's actions, it will be up to the Supreme Court to determine the legality of these actions," Jayasuriya said.

Story highlights

Maithripala Sirisena said there were media reports that politicians would clash during a vote to decide between two men claiming the premiership after he controversially sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month.