Arjuna Ranatunga was sacked when the cabinet was dissolved by the Sri Lankan president. (Source: Express Archive)
Sacked Sri Lanka petroleum minister Arjuna Ranatunga was arrested Monday, a day after his security staff opened fire at Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s supporters, and killed one and injured two others outside his office.
Ranatunga was arrested from the premises of petroleum ministry, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera was quoted by PTI as saying.
The day’s political development unfolded after President Maithripala Sirisena’s broader political front United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had withdrawn from the unity government with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).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.
Supporters of sacked Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe gather outside his official residence as a police commando stands guard in Colombo. (AP)
Addressing the foreign journalists association, Wickremesinghe said, “The Speaker has the powers to summon parliament and he will decide tomorrow”. Wickremesinghe said he commands a majority in the House and it could be proved when parliament is reconvened. However, when he called for an emergency session of the Parliament, Sirisena suspended the house till November 14. Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya has recognised Wickremesinghe as the prime minister and told the president that suspending the parliament would set a dangerous precedent.
According to Wickremesinghe, what Sirisena did was unconstitutional because as per Article 46 (2) of the 19th Amendment of the constitution, the president cannot sack a prime minister who enjoys majority support in parliament. However, President Sirisena’s camp says that the Cabinet ceased to exist the moment the UPFA withdrew from the national government. When there is no Cabinet, the president has the power to appoint the person whom he thinks commands the majority in parliament as the prime minister. However, Wickremesinghe asserts that he has majority support in parliament.
As the situation worsened in the country, China said that it is closely monitoring the ‘political turmoil’ in Sri Lanka but hopes that the relevant political parties can resolve their differences through dialogue and consultations as it is an internal matter. According to PTI, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told media here that China is following the crisis closely. “China and Sri Lanka are friendly neighbours. We are closely following the changes in the situation in Sri Lanka,” Kang said.
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