Ousted Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe says he still commands majority

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Wickremesinghe said he commands a majority in the House and it could be proved when parliament is reconvened. (AP)

Sri Lanka’s ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Monday that he still commands the majority in parliament as the Speaker feared that there could be “bloodshed” on the streets amid the current political crisis.

The political developments unfolded after President Maithripala Sirisena’s broader political front United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) withdrew from the unity government with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). Sirisena on Friday night sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister. Sirisena also suspended parliament till November 16 after Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority.

Addressing the foreign journalists association, Wickremesinghe said, “The Speaker has the powers to summon parliament and he will decide tomorrow”. Wickremesinghe said he commands majority in the House and it could be proved when parliament is reconvened.

“We have majority in the House and now told the Speaker to summon parliament,” he said referring to letters sent to Jayasuriya by the main Tamil party Tamil National Alliance and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. “No one can interfere with parliament,” Wickremesinghe said.

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Sri Lankan parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya warned that there could be bloodshed as some people were trying to resolve a power struggle between the president and his ousted premier on the streets. Addressing reporters in Kandy, Jayasuriya said the issue should be resolved inside parliament. “Some are trying to settle this outside on the streets. If that is allowed there can be bloodshed, two (sic) people have died already, internationally the country will suffer damage,” he said.

The crisis in Sri Lanka took a deadly turn on Sunday as one person was killed in violence at the headquarters of state oil company Ceylon Petroleum, where Arjuna Ranatunga, petroleum minister in the ousted cabinet, tried to re-enter his office. Police said one of Ranatunga’s security guards opened fire. Mangala Samaraweera, the finance minister in the ousted government, the so called Rajapaksa government had been formed as a result of “a coup”. “All those accepting illegal positions in an unlawful government would be legally dealt with,” he said.

Matthew Circosta, Analyst, Sovereign Risk Group, Moody’s Investors Service said, “The current political crisis in Sri Lanka is credit negative for the sovereign.” “The President’s sudden appointment of Mr Rajapaksa as Prime Minister significantly heightens policy uncertainty. And at a time when global financial markets are turbulent, uncertainty about the direction of future policy could have a large and lasting negative impact on international investor confidence,” he warned. Rajapaksa, meanwhile assumed duties in the prime minister’s secretariat, but is yet to prove his parliamentary majority.

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