Sri Lanka crisis: Rajapaksa camp says will seize PM home, office if Wickremesinghe does not resign today

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Oct 28, 2018, 08.43 AM(IST)

Mahinda Rajapaksa. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister on Friday, replacing him with controversial strongman and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will address the country today and a new cabinet will be announced Monday, news reports said Sunday. 

Sirisena plunged the country into a full-blown constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday. Sirisena then replaced Wickremesinghe with controversial strongman and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa 

Wickremesinghe has called the move "unconstitutional". On Saturday, he demanded the Speaker call an emergency session of Parliament so that he could prove his majority on the floor of the house. 

Sirisena responded by dissolving Parliament. Later on Saturday, he also withdrew Wickremesinghe's security. 

On Saturday a government gazette said veteran civil servant S Amarasekera had been named Rajapaksa's secretary by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe's secretary Saman Ekanayake sacked.

The Rajapaksa camp meanwhile said they would seize the prime minister's official home and office — Temple Trees — if Wickremesinghe did not quit by Sunday.

The Rajapaksa camp has already started running the prime minister's secretariat with Amarasekera's appointment. They took control of the state TV stations on Friday night itself after Rajapaksa took oath as Sri Lanka's new prime minister. 

India says it has been watching the "internal developments" oin the island nation closely. (Wickremesinghe is seen as leaning towards India, Sirisena towards China. Sirisena had accused India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of plotting to assassinate him.) 

China's Ambassador to Colombo, Cheng Xueya, meanwhile became the first envoy to meet Rajapaksa on Saturday. Cheng said he was bringing good wishes from President Xi Jinping.

Wickremesinghe, his officials said, held a briefing for Colombo-based Ambassadors to explain the situation to them.

Wickremesinghe says he still commands a majority in the 225-member Sri Lankan assembly.

The Rajapaksa-Sirisena combine has only 95 seats and is short of a simple majority in the 225-member house. Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) has 106 seats on its own with just seven short of a majority. 

(With inputs from PTI)