COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s speaker of parliament Sunday (Oct 28) recognised Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s lawful prime minister, three days after his sacking by the president threw the island into constitutional chaos.
Wickremesinghe says his shock dismissal on Friday was illegal, and ignored a deadline to vacate the official residence Sunday – instead holding crisis meetings with allies to gather support.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said Wickremesinghe’s request to retain the security and privileges of prime minister was fair until another candidate could prove a majority in parliament.
“I consider the said request to be a democratic and fair request,” Jayasuriya said in a letter addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena, who dismissed Wickremesinghe on Friday.
Jayasuriya also warned the president that shutting parliament for nearly three weeks would exacerbate the political crisis gripping the Indian Ocean nation.
Shortly after firing Wickremesinghe, the president went on to appoint his former rival Mahinda Rajapakse as the new prime minister, and suspended parliament to forestall any challenge against his appointment.
The speaker recognised Wickremesinghe “as the leader of the government who has obtained a mandate to secure democracy and good governance.”
Jayasuriya holds a neutral position as speaker, but did originally hail from Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) which until Friday ruled Sri Lanka in a coalition with Sirisena.
Sirisena has also ordered the withdrawal of security and vehicles allocated to Wickremesinghe as prime minister.
Wickremesinghe had demanded an early meeting of parliament to prove his majority, but Sirisena had instead suspended parliament.
“Continuing the prorogation (suspension) of parliament until 16th November will have serious and undesirable consequences for our country, and I kindly request you to reconsider same,” Jayasuriya told the president.
He also noted that Sirisena had failed to consult him before suspending parliament.
Elsewhere, Rajapakse travelled to the central town of Kandy on Sunday to seek the blessings of the country’s top Buddhist monks.
He is due to name a cabinet later Sunday or on Monday, officials in Rajapakse’s office said.