Ethnic Tamil party pledges vote against Sri Lankan strongman

Frederick Owens
November 5, 2018

The subsequent appointment of Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister has led to a stable alliance which includes several lawmakers from the former PM's United National Party.

Sri Lanka's Parliament Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya, on Sunday informed President Maithripala Sirisena that his decision to suspend parliament till November 16 will have "serious and undesirable consequences" for the island country. "Therefore, I am requested by the majority of the parliament to accept the position which was prior to these changes".

Prior to the crisis, Wickramasinghe's UNP had the backing of 106 parliamentarians while Rajapaksa and Sirisena combine had 95 seats.

Sirisena said, "this information (received by investigators) contains a number of details hitherto hidden to the people".

Sirisena also suspended Parliament until November 16.

Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's president from 2005 to 2015, is credited by Sri Lanka's Sinhalese ethnic majority with ending a 25-year civil war with the Tamil Tigers, a militant group of Tamils fighting for independence.

Negotiated during the tenure of Rajapaksa as President, the repayments for the port are said to have pushed Sri Lanka into a debt-trap. One out of 16 Tamil MPs also joined Rajapaksa.

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's legislator son Namal Sunday indicated that the long-held demand of the Tamil minority community to release all Tamil prisoners may be fulfilled soon, a move aimed at persuading the Tamil legislators to support Rajapaksa.

On Friday, Sirisena had dismissed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet, later telling reporters he acted in part because Wickremesinghe and a Cabinet colleague were behind an alleged assassination plot against him. Sirisena has formed a new cabinet since then with several ministers, state and deputy ministers already sworn in.

It has two prime ministers, or at least two politicians both laying claim to be the sole legal head of government.

An island nation with an economy that's mainly reliant on tourism and tea exports, Sri Lanka's blessed geography puts it at a crucial juncture of the busy shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean.

On Tuesday, angry protests rocked Sri Lanka's capital as thousands of demonstrators gathered for a rally organised by Wickremesinghe's party against what it said was a "coup" by President Sirisena.

Sri Lanka regained the GSP plus preferential treatment in 2017.

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