President of Sri Lanka Moves to Dissolve Parliament
The president of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, has decided to dissolve the country’s parliament on Friday, heightening political tensions and drawing criticism from Western countries such as the U.S. and Great Britain.
This move comes just 10 days prior to the convening of parliament, and about a month after the president sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointing the island’s former strongman leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the new prime minister. However, Wickremesinghe has refused to leave, standing by his belief that he is still prime minister.
Sirisena has said he fired Wickremesinghe because he believed Wickremesinghe was attempting to implement “a new, extreme liberal political concept by giving more priority for foreign policies and neglecting the local people’s sentiment”.
The rivals of President Sirisena are set to challenge the dissolution of parliament as unconstitutional in the Supreme Court on Monday. A spokesman for the Tamil National Alliance, the main party representative of ethnic Tamil groups, M.A. Sumanthiran told Reuters, This is a clear violation of the constitution. The president can’t do this.”
Sirisena has called for a general election on January 5th, possibly to help political tensions. Independent legal experts have said that parliament could only be dissolved by a 2/3 vote of lawmakers, a referendum, or by dissolving it in early 2020 (four and a half years after the first sitting of the current parliament).
The issue has sparked international interest. The U.S. Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs tweeted that the United States is “deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis. As a committed partner of #SriLanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity.”
Mark Field, the British minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, tweeted, “As a friend of Sri Lanka, the UK calls on all parties to uphold the constitution and respect democratic institutions and processes.”
Caiman Cotton is a lead contributor to The Daily Lead.