| Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reacts to arguments in the parliament in Colombo. (AP)
Colombo, Nov. 19 (Reuters): Sri Lanka’s parliament reopened to an uproar today when the speaker criticised the island’s President for suspending the legislature, which launched a crisis that put a peace bid with Tamil rebels on hold.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga fired three ministers and suspended parliament on November 4, saying the Prime Minister had compromised security by conceding too much in the bid to make peace after 20 years of war with the Tigers.
“This sudden decision to prorogue was not supported by any valid reason. It had the effect of preventing business being transacted and was purely aimed at paralysing one arm of the government...,” speaker Joseph Michael Perera said in a statement to parliament.
“The exercise of the power to summon, dissolve and prorogue must always be exercised in consultation with Parliament.”
But despite the shouting match the statement provoked, the reopening was met with relief, with the stock market surging nearly six per cent, although the feud between Kumaratunga and the Prime Minister was far from resolved.
The resumption of parliament allowed the reading of the 2004 budget — which outlined an overhaul of the public sector and massive spending increases for the island’s neglected infrastructure — after it had been delayed for one week by the suspension.
Wickremesinghe’s party has a slim majority in parliament, but Kumaratunga, who is elected separately and is from a rival party, has wide constitutional powers over the army and heads the cabinet. The speaker urged the two to work together.
“When different parties hold power in these two branches it is essential... for both these branches of government to act in cooperation,” Perera said.
Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe today met for a second time since the crisis began and agreed to appoint a committee to try to hammer out a way resolve their differences.