Sri Lanka crisis: Parties file petitions challenging President Sirisena's sacking

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Colombo, Sri Lanka Nov 12, 2018, 10.28 AM (IST)

Sri Lanka's main political parties on Monday filed petitions challenging President Maithripala Sirisena's sacking of parliament and asked the Supreme Court to restore the legislature.

Three parties, which together enjoy an absolute majority in the assembly, asked the highest court to also declare Sirisena's October 26 sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe illegal.

Sacked premier Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP), the main opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the leftist JVP, or People's Liberation Front, were among 10 groups that filed the action, news agency AFP reported.

According to the report, several civil society groups and individuals too had submitted separate petitions, all seeking a declaration against the presidential action against the legislature.

On Friday, Sirisena announced that he was dissolving parliament and called fresh elections on January 5.

He also defended his controversial move saying that violent clashes among rival MPs could have led to "civil unrest" across the country if the legislature had met.

 "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 has said in a televised address to the nation. "I acted to prevent civil unrest."

Also read: Sri Lanka has suffered a 'coup without guns', says Parliament speaker

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

Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe has insisted that 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.

Shortly before sacking the legislature, Sirisena also took over the police department by attaching it to his defence ministry. He also took control of the state printer, a crucial institution that publishes decrees and proclamations.

He had already taken control of all state media outlets soon after dismissing Wickremesinghe.

(With inputs from news agencies)