Sri Lanka court blocks appointed prime minister from taking office

Frederick Owens
December 5, 2018

Rajapakse's lawyers on Tuesday filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal, but it was not immediately taken up for hearing.

A Sri Lankan court Monday barred Mahinda Rajapaksa from acting as Prime Minister, in a major setback to President Maithripala Sirisena who had installed his former rival in place of Ranil Wickremesinghe in a controversial decision that triggered a constitutional crisis in the island nation.

Judge Arjuna Obeyesekere said in his ruling that if Rajapaksa and his cabinet continued to hold office, it would cause "irreparable" damage.

The court issued its order on Monday after 122 members of Sri Lanka's parliament, who are allied with ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, filed a legal action on November 23 challenging Rajapaksa's authority as prime minister.

Sirisena later dissolved Parliament, nearly 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered snap election.

The President can not say this is what I want. On Monday evening, the President told lawmakers from Mr. Wickremesinghe's front that he would not restore him in the office of the PM "even if all 225 members of Parliament" backed him.

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Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Tuesday resumed hearing the case challenging Mr. Sirisena's decision to sack Parliament and hold snap polls, which petitioners argued were not within his rights before the current legislature completed four and a half years.

"There is a possibility of withdrawing the gazette", said a source in regular discussion with Sirisena, referring to the official announcement by which the president dissolved parliament.

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

Rajapaksa, a former president, has lost two confidence votes in parliament but has refused to resign.

Wickremesinghe, with the support from the main Tamil party, claims to have the support of more than 113 legislators, required for simple majority.

Speaking further, the President said that Ranil Wickremesinghe's extreme liberal political philosophy not only destroyed the country, but also murdered the concept of good governance. Sirisena had complained about sharp political differences with Wickremesinghe.

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