Sri Lanka crisis: President Maithripala Sirisena's all-party crisis talk fails to end political stalemate

Colombo, Sri Lanka Updated: Nov 18, 2018, 09:23 PM(IST)

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena is defending the army, which has been blamed for killing 40,000 minority Tamils during the final battle against Tamil Tigers in 2009. Photograph:( Getty )

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The crisis erupted when President Sirisena suddenly announced on October 26 that he had sacked prime minister Wickremesinghe and installed ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place.

An all-party meeting called by Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena failed to make any breakthrough on Sunday to end the raging political crisis set off by his controversial decision to remove prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month. 

The crisis erupted when President Sirisena suddenly announced on October 26 that he had sacked prime minister Wickremesinghe and installed ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. 

Sirisena later dissolved Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered snap election. The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned President Sirisena's decision to dissolve Parliament and halted the preparations for snap polls on January 5.

The crisis talks came after Sri Lanka's parliament witnessed unprecedented violence as lawmakers threw furniture and chilli powder at each other. The lawmakers on Friday approved a second vote of no confidence against Rajapaksa but Sirisena refused to accept it, saying his advice was not followed. 

Sirisena on Sunday called an all-party meeting which ended without making breakthrough, Wickremsinghe's United National Party (UNP) said.

This was the first time that Sirisena, Wickremsinghe and Rajapaksa met face to face since the crisis erupted on October 26.

Wickremesinghe has maintained that his sacking by Sirisena was unconstitutional and illegal and he was still the prime minister. 

"We placed our cards on the table. We told Rajapaska that if the Speaker's rulings are wrong, they can move a motion to challenge it and get it passed. Response from President Sirisena was nil," Lakshman Kiriella, a senior UNP leader, said after talks which lasted for over 2 hours.

"We told President we have the majority. We are in a position to present the affidavits we signed," Ajith P Perera, another UNP leader said.

The JVP or the People's Liberation Front stayed away from Sunday's meeting. The party in a letter to Sirisena said that he was the creator of the crisis so he should end it. The party said it had no reason to attend the meeting. 

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who on Wednesday announced there is no prime minister or government following a no-confidence motion against disputed prime minister Rajapaksa, also boycotted the meeting.

Sirisena and Jayasuriya are at loggerheads ever since Jayasuriya decided to summon parliament on November 14 despite Sirisena's dissolution of the the assembly to hold fresh elections. 

The chaos on Friday in Parliament forced the Speaker Jayasuriya to summon police inside the House. Jayasuriya, using a microphone, conducted the proceedings while standing on the floor of Parliament, which for the second time passed a no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa and his government by a voice vote.    

Jayasuriya first offered to take the vote by name, but was unable to do so because of the commotion and opted for a voice vote. He then adjourned the house until Monday.

After the second vote against Rajapakse, Wickremesinghe demanded that his government be restored, but there has been no response from Sirisena yet.

Wickremesinghe's party meanwhile asked Facebook to safeguard the identity of its supporters on the social media platform, fearing information sharing with what it calls the country's "illegal" government can lead to a crackdown against the users. 

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