Setback to Sirisena majority claim

President Sirisena's party member resigned and backed ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

By PTI in Colombo
  • Published 7.11.18, 1:34 AM
  • Updated 7.11.18, 1:34 AM
  • a min read
  •  
President Maithripala Sirisena had sacked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa (Reuters)

A deputy minister of Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance government resigned on Tuesday and backed ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a setback to the President.

Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, a controversial former President, and suspended parliamentary proceedings until November 16.

Manusha Nanayakkara, who was in Sirisena/Rajapaksa’s original list of 96 MPs, said in a letter to Sirisena on Tuesday that in his opinion Wickremesinghe was still the legitimate Prime Minister as accepted by the parliamentary speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

He resigned as the deputy minister of labour and foreign employment. He was sworn in as the deputy minister only on November 1.

In a video message, Nanayakkara said that he does not approve of the

arbitrary political appointments that have taken place and will support the struggle to protect and uphold democracy.

Nanayakkara’s defection came hours after Sirisena announced publicly that people should not doubt his majority — 113 in the 225-member legislature. Legislators have been switching sides ever since the island nation was plunged into a political and constitutional crisis with Sirisena’s move to sack Wickremesinghe last month.

Rajapaksa had been bolstered by at least 9 defections from Wickremesinghe’s United National Party and Tamil National Alliance.

Since the crisis broke out there have been media reports that MPs were offered up to 500 million rupees to switch sides.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Monday slammed Sirisena’s “unconstitutional and undemocratic” actions to sack Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and suspend Parliament, saying he will not recognise Rajapaksa as the new premier unless he wins a floor test.

He asked the President to reconvene the parliament for a floor test and end the crisis.

Sirisena’s side charged that Jayasuriya, a UNP senior, was backing his party leader Wickremesinghe by compromising the neutral position of speaker of parliament.

US appeal

The US and the Commonwealth have sought reconvening of the Sri Lankan Parliament to allow the elected representatives to have their say in resolving the political crisis in the island nation.