US, UK raise concerns on dissolving Parliament in Sri Lanka

Lamar Ellis
November 10, 2018

Before he signed the papers dissolving parliament and calling the election, Sirisena appointed allies of his and of Rajapaksa to cabinet positions.

He also pointed out that he clearly rejects the dissolution of the Parliament, citing the Constitutional validity of the move, which does not allow the President to dissolve the House within four-and-a-half years of rule under the 19th Amendment to Sri Lanka.

A government minister speaking on condition of anonymity, said the official notification dissolving parliament took effect from midnight Friday.

"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament", said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at US -based analyst group Atlantic Council's South Asia Center.

The president later called snap polls on Jan 5. Maithripala Sirisena said in a proclamation that a new parliament will be convened on January 17 after conducting the nation-wide vote on January 5.

Wickremesinghe, who has not left the Temple Trees residence since his sacking, maintains that the action against him was unconstitutional and illegal, and insists his group can muster a majority.

Given those views, it was not immediately clear how Sirisena can legally dissolve parliament, though his legal experts have said there are provisions for him to do so.

Tensions had been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister. "At the end of the day, he is a victim of his own homegrown crisis".

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President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the parliament on Friday. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

"This is a gross violation of the constitution", Harsha De Silva, a lawmaker in Wickremesinghe's party, said in reference to the dissolution of parliament.

The party said in a Twitter message that it will meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of Sirisena's move.

"This further political uncertainty is corrosive to Sri Lanka's democratic future and its commitments on reconciliation and accountability", it said.

"As a friend of Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom calls on all parties to uphold the constitution and respect democratic institutions and processes", Field said. The only other legal ways would be through a referendum, or with the consent of two thirds of lawmakers. "We will be fighting this to ensure that democracy reigns supreme in the country".

Rajapaksa indicated what was coming hours before the dissolution in a speech.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who two weeks ago sparked a crisis by sacking the prime minister and installing former authoritarian leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place, signed a decree for elections to be held 5 January, almost two years ahead of schedule.

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