Sri Lanka Parliament cuts PM's budget amid crisis

COLOMBO • Sri Lanka's Parliament yesterday cut the budget of the Prime Minister's Office, a move designed to hinder disputed premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose supporters boycotted the vote amid a weeks-long political crisis that shows no sign of ending.

Lawmakers opposed to Mr Rajapaksa, who has lost two no-confidence votes in Parliament, regard his administration as illegitimate and say he should not be able to use government money for his day-to-day expenses.

"This means the Prime Minister will be dysfunctional. We will bring a similar motion tomorrow to cut down the expenditure of all other ministers," said Mr Ravi Karunanayake, the former finance minister, who proposed yesterday's motion, which passed 123 to none in the 225-member Parliament.

The vote comes more than a month after President Maithripala Sirisena triggered the crisis by ousting former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with Mr Rajapaksa, who was, in turn, sacked by Parliament.

Mr Rajapaksa ruled as president from 2005 to 2015, a decade of rule that critics said became increasingly authoritarian and marred by nepotism and corruption.

He presided over a bloody government victory over separatist rebels from the Tamil minority in 2009, ending a 27-year civil war.

Mr Rajapaksa and his loyalists denounced yesterday's vote as illegal and questioned the impartiality of Parliament's Speaker.

"Speaker is acting completely illegally and arbitrarily. We are not participating in such illegal meetings," Mr Rajapaksa told reporters in Parliament before yesterday's proceedings started.

While the rhetoric remained belligerent on both sides, the atmosphere has cooled since Rajapaksa loyalists threw chairs and chilli paste at the Speaker to try and disrupt a no-confidence motion almost two weeks ago.

Focus is now on the courts, which are next week expected to rule on whether Mr Sirisena's sacking of Mr Wickremesinghe on Oct 26 and then his dissolution of Parliament on Nov 9 were constitutional.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2018, with the headline 'Sri Lanka Parliament cuts PM's budget amid crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe