Sri Lanka showdown looms as PM loses vote of confidence

COLOMBO • Sri Lanka's Parliament passed a no-confidence motion against newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday, presenting a stand-off with the opposition and throwing the country deeper into turmoil.

Deputies from Mr Rajapaksa's party rejected the voice vote as illegal, saying it was not scheduled and that the pro-China former strongman would remain in office.

It was not immediately clear what President Maithripala Sirisena, who triggered the crisis by firing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and naming Mr Rajapaksa to the job, would do now.

Government officials said there was confusion about who was in charge. "We need Cabinet approvals to go ahead with large-value projects," one said. "We don't know if a Cabinet exists or not."

President Sirisena dissolved Parliament last week and ordered elections as a way to break the deadlock but the Supreme Court ordered a suspension of that decree until it had heard petitions challenging the decree as unconstitutional.

Mr Wickremesinghe, who had refused to vacate the prime minister's residence, said he intended to discharge his official responsibilities now that he had proved his majority in Parliament.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the no-confidence vote against Mr Rajapaksa was supported by 122 members of the 225-member house. "A majority voted in favour of the no-confidence motion and thus the no-confidence motion was passed."

 

But Mr Rajapaksa's son Namal, who is also an MP, said the vote had not been put on the day's business and hence was not valid. Father and son left the chamber before the vote was taken and their supporters shouted slogans in support.

The instability in the nation of 21 million people has raised concerns for its tourism-dependent economy, already expanding at its slowest pace in over a decade.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2018, with the headline 'Sri Lanka showdown looms as PM loses vote of confidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe