Weeks after being sacked by President Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe proved his majority in Parliament Wednesday, with 117 out of 225 lawmakers voting to pass a confidence motion in his leadership.
The vote could hamper President Sirisena’s controversial move to install ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister, removing incumbent Wickremesinghe on October 26. The move had triggered uncertainty in the country’s politics, plunging it down into chaos. Rajapaksa has so far failed to prove his majority in Parliament.
Sirisena, after sacking Wickremesinghe, dissolved Parliament and called for a snap election on January 5. However, the Supreme Court overturned his decision.
The main Tamil minority party TNA today voted in favour of the confidence motion. However, the Marxist JVP, which has protested Sirisena’s extra-constitutional action, abstained from voting. If the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)’s six lawmakers had voted in his favour, Wickremesinghe would have commanded an unassailable majority in the House despite the president’s refusal to reinstate him.
Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa both claim to be the prime minister with the former claiming that his dismissal is invalid because he still holds a majority in the 225-member Parliament. Prior to the crisis, Wickramasinghe’s UNP had the backing of 106 parliamentarians while Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine had 95 seats.
The President has said that due to sharp personal differences with Wickremesinghe, he would not reappoint him as the Prime Minister.
Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance continued its boycott of Parliament when Sajith Premadasa, Wickremesinghe’s deputy, moved the motion in the morning. Premadasa urged Sirisena to end the October 26 unconstitutional action and reinstate Wickremesinghe to take the country back to the pre-October 26 position.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya later adjourned the Parliament session until December 18.
Legislators supporting Sirsena and Rajapaksa have been boycotting Parliament since November 17 when there were violent scenes of fighting, breaking up of furniture and throwing chilli powder. Two key court orders on the legality of Sirisena’s action await delivery. The one on Parliament’s sacking is expected this week.
United National Party (UNP) leader Wickremesinghe last week urged the President not to “be like Hitler and some of the other dictators who used the referendum”. Sirisena has said that Wickremesinghe is a stubborn, headstrong person who was following far right wing neo-liberal policies.
(Inputs from PTI)