Sri Lanka President holds talks to end power struggle

A supporter of Sri Lanka's ousted prime minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, wearing a mask depicting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (left), during a rally in Colombo on Thursday. It was also chaos in Parliament as protesting government memb
A supporter of Sri Lanka's ousted prime minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, wearing a mask depicting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (above), during a rally in Colombo on Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE
A supporter of Sri Lanka's ousted prime minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, wearing a mask depicting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (left), during a rally in Colombo on Thursday. It was also chaos in Parliament as protesting government memb
It was also chaos in Parliament as protesting government members threw a chair (above) at a contingent of policemen escorting the Speaker during a parliamentary session on Friday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

COLOMBO • Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday held crucial talks with political leaders in a bid to end a power struggle with the prime minister he sacked last month.

The Indian Ocean nation has been paralysed since Oct 26 when Mr Sirisena deposed Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier and replaced him with a former rival, Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr Wickremesinghe insists he is still prime minister while Parliament voted twice last week to reject Mr Rajapaksa.

"President Sirisena will chair a meeting of representatives of political parties in Parliament today," his office said in a statement yesterday. "The President has called this meeting in order to end the current political unrest and conflict situation and to allow the normal functioning of the Parliament."

Brawling erupted in Parliament with Rajapaksa loyalists smashing furniture and throwing chilli powder and projectiles at rivals in a bid to disrupt a no-confidence motion against the disputed prime minister.

After the second vote against Mr Rajapaksa last Friday, Mr Wickremesinghe demanded that his government be restored, but there has been no response from Mr Sirisena yet.

 
 
 

Mr Wickremesinghe has said Sri Lanka needs "stability" and that he was ready to work with Mr Sirisena despite the personality clash that triggered the constitutional crisis.

After sacking Mr Wickremesinghe on Oct 26, Mr Sirisena dissolved Parliament on Nov 9, but the Supreme Court suspended his action and restored Parliament pending a full hearing into the legality of his actions.

For 19 days, Sri Lanka had two claimants to the prime minister's post, but last Thursday, Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya held that he would recognise neither as premier. Officially, Sri Lanka no longer has a government.

Legislators say that with the administration at a standstill, key sectors such as tourism are taking a serious battering.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2018, with the headline 'Sri Lanka President holds talks to end power struggle'. Print Edition | Subscribe