Saturday, 19 Jan 2019

Sri Lanka: PM sacked after assassination plot

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan president said on Sunday that he sacked his prime minister, mainly because of the alleged involvement of a cabinet minister in a plot to assassinate him.

In a televised address to the nation, President Maithripala Sirisena said that a person interviewed by the investigators had revealed the name of a minister in an alleged plot of murder, as well as that of a man. a former Secretary of Defense.

He stated that the only choice available to him in these circumstances was to dismiss Ranil Wickremesinghe and invite his former enemy and ex-strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa to take over as Prime Minister and to form a new government.

"This information (received by the investigators) contains a number of details hitherto hidden from the people," said Sirisena. "The informant made a statement about a cabinet minister involved in the plot to murder me."

He did not reveal the name of the minister, nor the details of the alleged conspiracy, and did not explain why he considered the statements credible.

Supporters of Sirisena have been talking for weeks about an alleged conspiracy to assassinate her, but Sunday was the first time Sirisena spoke about it publicly.

A police informant, Namal Kumara, told reporters Sunday that Wickremesinghe and his cabinet colleague, former army commander, Sarath Fonseka, were behind the plot of the assassination.

Wickremesinghe and Fonseka did not make an immediate comment on the allegation.

The alleged conspiracy is the subject of a police investigation, but no arrests have been made.

Wickremesinghe called Sirisena's decision to overturn it unconstitutional and said he could prove his support for the majority in Parliament.

On Saturday, Sirisena suspended Parliament apparently to give Rajapaksa time to gather enough support to survive any vote of no confidence.

The Speaker of Parliament has asked Sirisena to protect the rights of Wickremesinghe.

President Karu Jayasuriya said Sunday in a letter to Sirisena that the continued suspension of Parliament would have "serious and undesirable consequences".

Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the US State Department, said Washington was following events in Sri Lanka "with concern" and called on Sirisena to reconvene Parliament.

At the same time, one person died and two others were injured Sunday in a shootout at the Ministry of Oil, during the first violent incident that occurred since the beginning of the political turmoil with the dismissal of Wickremesinghe.

Pushpa Soyza, spokesman for the Colombo National Hospital, said that three people had been admitted to the hospital as a result of the shooting and that one of them was died.

Arjuna Ranatunga, Oil Minister under Wickremesinghe, said one of his security agents had opened fire when Rajapaksa's supporters had assaulted him and protested against his entry into the ministry's premises.

Opposition lawmakers, supporting the new prime minister, asked Wickremesinghe to leave his official residence or face forced eviction.

Hundreds of Wickremesinghe supporters continued to gather outside his official home on Sunday for the second consecutive day, waving party flags and denouncing Sirisena and Rajapaksa. Buddhist monks practiced religious rites to invoke blessings on Wickremesinghe.

Jayasuriya said in his letter that he had received "an application for protection of the rights and privileges" from Wickremesinghe "until another person emerges from Parliament for gaining the confidence of Parliament. " He stated that the request came from two senior legislators of the fired group. the party of the prime minister.

"This demand is particularly important in the context of various threats from the media," Jayasuriya said, adding that "forced takeovers" would have "serious international consequences."

Tensions have been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president has not approved some of the economic reforms introduced by the Prime Minister. Sirisena also criticized the investigations of soldiers accused of human rights violations during the long civil war that ended Sri Lanka in 2009.

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


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