Friday, 18 Jan 2019

President of Sri Lanka dissolves parliament and calls for election

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday dissolved parliament and called for new elections in a context of growing political crisis.

The government printer has issued a notification signed by Sirisena announcing the dissolution of Parliament, which will take effect at midnight on Friday.

The summons indicates that the names of the candidates for the new elections will be called for one week from November 19th and that the elections will be held on January 5th. The new legislature is scheduled to meet on January 17.

Sri Lanka has been in a political crisis since October 26, when Sirisena sacked his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Wickremesinghe insisted that his dismissal is unconstitutional. He refused to leave his official residence and asked that Parliament be summoned to prove that he had the support of his members.

There were also local and international calls to convene Parliament to end the stalemate.

Sirisena has maintained her choice of Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, with a majority in Parliament, but the decision to dissolve Parliament shows that this is not the case.

"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he could or could obtain to demonstrate his support for Parliament," said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the Center for South Asia's the Atlantic Council, based in New Delhi.

"At the end of the day, he is a victim of the crisis in his home."

The Wickremesinghe camp is likely to challenge Sirisena's decision because of constitutional provisions stipulating that a parliament can only be dissolved four and a half years after its creation. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

Wickremesinghe or his party officials could not be contacted immediately for comment.

Rajapaksa said what would happen a few hours before the breakup in a speech. He said the government should ask the people if the president had made the right decision when he appointed him prime minister.


Emily Schmall, writer at the Associated Press in New Delhi, India, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, disseminated, rewritten or redistributed.


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