Political turmoil in Sri Lanka intensifies as opposition takes control of parliament


Political turmoil in Sri Lanka intensifies as opposition takes control of parliament

Pani Wijesiriwardena

24 November 2018

Sri Lanka’s political crisis took another turn yesterday when all the MPs backing Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse walked out of parliament after the Speaker refused to allocate them a majority on a key committee that could trigger the cutting off of funds to his government.

Factions around Rajapakse and ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe battled for control of the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) because it determines the parliament’s functions, including its agenda.

Last Sunday, at an “all party conference,” President Maithripala Sirisena told the opposition led by Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) he did not accept the no-confidence motions passed against Rajapakse, his appointee, because they did not follow parliamentary standing orders.

At the beginning of yesterday’s parliamentary session, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that as party leaders could not agree on the PSC’s composition, he had nominated members according to “the provisions secured by the constitution.”

Jayasuriya allocated five seats each to Rajapakse’s faction and the UNP, and one each for Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Tamil National Alliance (TNA). As the JVP and TNA back the UNP, the opposition now controls the committee, as well as the Speaker’s post. Jayasuriya is a senior member of the UNP.

House Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, a Rajapakse supporter, declared that his faction would walk out to “oppose the unconstitutional composition” of the PSC. He accused Jayasuriya of acting partially.

After the government members left the chamber, the remaining 121 MPs voted on the committee nominations electronically, according to a…

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