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Sri Lanka ‘a laughing stock’ as political crisis paralyses Govt.: Welgama

A prolonged power struggle between Sri Lanka’s President and his sacked Prime Minister has paralysed the island’s Government and must be solved immediately, a key MP said Wednesday. 

President Maithripala Sirisena is yet to appoint several Ministers since controversially dismissing Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration last month and appointing former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place.  

The move, which has been described as illegal by opponents, has triggered a constitutional crisis.  Sirisena has filled only 20 of 30 Cabinet positions – purposefully keeping some portfolios vacant to tempt legislators of Wickremesinghe’s party to defect to his and Rajapaksa’s side ahead of a Parliamentary vote on 14 November. 

The vote will determine whether Wickremesinghe or Rajapaksa has a majority to form a Government. 

“Our country is going down the precipice. No one is working in Government offices,” Kumar Welgama, a senior member of Rajapaksa’s party and an influential Sri Lankan politician, told reporters in Colombo. 

“Public servants want to know who the real PM is. People are confused,” he added, calling for the suspension of Parliament to be lifted so that the issue of who is the rightful Prime Minister can be settled. 

“Today, we are the laughing stock of the world. One Prime Minister is in the Official Residence and the other is in the PM’s Office. 
“We need to settle this issue through Parliament,” he said. 

Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe on 26 October due to an intense personality clash between the two. 

Wickremesinghe says his dismissal was illegal and claims to command a majority in Parliament. 

Rajapaksa also maintains that he has a majority, however, leaving the country in the unusual position of having two people claiming to be Prime Minister. 

Sirisena shut Parliament a day after sacking Wickremesinghe. He has refused calls to reconvene it at the earliest opportunity, saying it will not reopen until 14 November. 

According to latest counts, Wickremesinghe has 103 MPs from the 225-seat assembly after gaining a defection on Tuesday, while Rajapaksa and Sirisena have 101. 

Most of the remaining 21 MPs are set to oppose Rajapaksa, observers say. (AFP)

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