Sri Lanka Speaker recognises Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister

Sri Lanka's ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe arrives at a news conference in Colombo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Colombo, Sri Lanka Nov 05, 2018, 11.23 AM (IST)

Sri Lanka's speaker of parliament said on Monday he would not accept a former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister until he proves he commands a majority in parliament.

President Maithripala Sirisena fired the sitting prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and appointed Rajapaksa in his place, drawing criticism from political parties and the international community.

"The majority of the members are of the view that the changes done in the parliament are unconstitutional and against the traditions," the speaker of parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, said in a statement.

"Therefore, I am requested by the majority of the parliament to accept the position which was prior to these changes. Until the new group shows the majority, I will have to accept the status quo prior to the changes."

Lanka Speaker statement

(Speaker Karu Jayasuriya's statement in Tamil)

President Sirisena, who also suspended the country's parliament, has meanwhile ordered it to be reconvened on November 14, clearing the way for a vote on his October 26 decision.

Wickremesinghe has called his dismissal "unconstitutional". His United National Party submitted a motion to that effect to parliament but Sirisena suspended its session until November 16, citing a need for Rajapaksa to make arrangements for the new government prevented the vote.

It was not clear if and when the 225-member parliament would vote on the UNP's motion that Wickremesinghe's dismissal was illegal.

Rajapaksa led Sri Lanka to a military defeat of Tamil separatist guerrillas in 2009 but has since faced widespread allegations of human rights abuse and targeting of Tamil civilians.

Wickremesinghe said earlier on Sunday that the United States and Japan had frozen more than a billion dollars of development aid after his abrupt dismissal raised doubts about the future of democracy in the island.

Sirisena's summons came after Wickremesinghe's UNP said on Friday that 118 lawmakers had met the Speaker to demand parliament be allowed to convene.

Before Wickremesinghe's dismissal, the UNP held 107 seats. Of those, eight have defected to support Rajapaksa. One out of 16 Tamil MPs also joined Rajapaksa.

Among the causes for the animosity between Wickremesinghe and Sirisena is Wickremesinghe's refusal to back the president's bid to stand in the next election in late 2019. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe's government of not taking seriously an alleged assassination plot against him.

Story highlights

President Maithripala Sirisena fired the sitting prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, on October 26 and appointed Rajapaksa in his place, drawing criticism from political parties and the international community.