Sirisena may reconvene Parliament next week as AG refuses to endorse sacking of Wickremesinghe

Colombo, Sri LankaUpdated: Nov 01, 2018, 11:41 AM IST

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

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The attorney general refused to give an opinion to Jayasuriya over the sacking of Wickremesinghe, saying it would be "deemed inappropriate".

Maithripala Sirisena is likely to agree to reconvene Sri Lankan Parliament next week, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya's office said on Wednesday, amid indications that a compromise is being worked out to avoid a showdown between the President and ousted premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Speaker Jayasuriya held emergency talks with President Sirisena on Wednesday evening to convince him on the need to reconvene Parliament to try and end the current political impasse over the sacking of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe last Friday.

The meeting came after Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya earlier on Wednesday refused to endorse the President's dismissal of Wickremesinghe for former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The attorney general refused to give an opinion to Jayasuriya over the sacking of Wickremesinghe, saying it would be "deemed inappropriate". Some political experts have opined that it is clear sign that the attorney general considers the move as unconstitutional.

Wickremesinghe's sacking was carried out by Sirisena inspite of the 19th amendment to the Constitution which had stripped president's powers to sack a prime minister.

Immediately after Rajapaksa's appointment Sirisena suspended parliament until November 16, which experts said was meant to buy time to engineer crossovers from Wickremesinghe's side to Rajapaksa in the 225-member parliament to reach the 113 working majority mark.

Jayasuriya had insisted since the crisis broke out that it needs to be resolved in parliament with a floor test.

Sirisena has faced relentless international pressure to reconvene parliament to allow a floor test. Countries other than China and Burundi have not recognised Rajapaksa as the new prime minister.

The Speaker, seeking the AG's opinion, had asked five questions including the one on the validity of President Maithripala Sirisena dismissing Wickremesinghe as the premier.

The attorney general wrote to the speaker: "Having regard to the role of the Attorney General under the Constitution, I am of the view that expressing an opinion on the said questions would be deemed inappropriate".

Sirisena is under increasing political and diplomatic pressure to reconvene Parliament and resolve the constitutional crisis.

Wickremesinghe, who is refusing to accept his dismissal, argues that he cannot legally be dismissed until he loses the support of Parliament.

On Tuesday, angry protests rocked Sri Lanka's capital as thousands of demonstrators gathered for a rally organised by deposed prime minister Wickremesinghe's party against what it said was a "coup" by President Sirisena, even as the opposing sides were engaged in efforts to secure their numbers in Parliament to end the country's political crisis.

Amidst the political turmoil in Sri Lanka, a top UN envoy here met President Sirisena Wednesday and discussed the prevailing political crisis.

United Nations Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer met Sirisena days after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed "great concern" over the deepening political crisis and called on the country's government to respect democratic values and constitutional provisions and process.

Meanwhile, new prime minister Rajapaksa assumed duties on Wednesday.