Sri Lanka Speaker recognises Wickremesinghe as PM

Sri Lanka's Speaker of Parliament said that the request by ousted PM Ranil Wickremesinghe (pictured) to retain the security and privileges of his former post was fair.
Sri Lanka's Speaker of Parliament said that the request by ousted PM Ranil Wickremesinghe (pictured) to retain the security and privileges of his former post was fair.PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP, REUTERS) - Sri Lanka’s Speaker of Parliament on Sunday (Oct 28) recognised Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s lawful Prime Minister, three days after his sacking by the President threw the island into constitutional chaos. 

Mr Wickremesinghe says his shock dismissal on Friday was illegal, and ignored a deadline to vacate the official residence on Sunday – instead holding crisis meetings with allies to gather support. 

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said Mr Wickremesinghe’s request to retain the security and privileges of Prime Minister was fair until another candidate could prove a majority in Parliament. 

“I consider the said request to be a democratic and fair request,” Mr Jayasuriya said in a letter addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena, who dismissed Mr Wickremesinghe on Friday. 

Mr Jayasuriya also warned the President that shutting Parliament for nearly three weeks would exacerbate the political crisis gripping the Indian Ocean nation. 

Shortly after firing Mr Wickremesinghe, the President went on to appoint his former rival Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister, and suspended Parliament to forestall any challenge against his appointment. 

The Speaker recognised Mr Wickremesinghe “as the leader of the government who has obtained a mandate to secure democracy and good governance”. 

Three people were injured on Sunday when a security guard of parliamentarian Arjuna Ranatunga, former petroleum minister under Mr Wickremesinghe’s sacked cabinet, opened fire, a police spokesman said.

When Arjuna Ranatunga tried to enter his office at the state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, his official security guard shot and injured three people, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told Reuters. Police have arrested guard who opened fire, he said, adding that a probe was under way.

Mr Jayasuriya holds a neutral position as Speaker, but did originally hail from Mr Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), which until Friday ruled Sri Lanka in a coalition with Mr Sirisena. 

Mr Sirisena has also ordered the withdrawal of security and vehicles allocated to Mr Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. 

Mr Wickremesinghe had demanded an early meeting of Parliament to prove his majority, but Mr Sirisena had instead suspended Parliament. 

“Continuing the prorogation (suspension) of Parliament until 16th November will have serious and undesirable consequences for our country, and I kindly request you to reconsider same,” Mr Jayasuriya told the President. 

He also noted that Mr Sirisena had failed to consult him before suspending Parliament. 

Elsewhere, Mr Rajapaksa travelled to the central town of Kandy on Sunday to seek the blessings of the country’s top Buddhist monks. 

He is due to name a Cabinet later on Sunday or on Monday, officials in Mr Rajapaksa’s office said.