March 27, 2019

Eyeing minority legislators support, Rajapaksa may release Tamil prisoners

05 November 2018, 10:27 | Devin Moran

Image Ranil Wickremesinghe has refused to accept his dismissal

Ranil Wickremesinghe has refused to accept his dismissal

Sirisena abruptly fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct.26 and appointed former president Rajapaksa to lead the ruling coalition instead, raising fears at home and overseas that this could derail Sri Lanka's halting national reconciliation process.

Wickremesinghe, who was recently removed from his position by President Maithripala Sirisena, continued to occupy Temple Trees last week.

He said Sirisena's coalition tried to establish a dictatorship but failed.

"The government got GSP on the basis of certain commitments, if these commitments are not met, then we would consider withdrawal,"EU ambassador to Sri Lanka, Tung-Lai Margue, was quoted as saying to Reuters, a news agency".

The United States and the European Union have urged the president to immediately summon Parliament and let lawmakers decide who is to lead the country. One out of 16 Tamil MPs also joined Rajapaksa.

Rajapakse loyalists are arranging a mass rally on Monday near the parliament complex to support to what the local media has dubbed a "constitutional coup".

Tamil support is decisive for Wickremesinghe - who has remained bunkered in the official prime minister's residence since his sacking, seeking to bolster his numbers in the assembly.

Sirisena was health minister in Rajapaksa's Cabinet and the second-in-command of his party before defecting to run as the opposition candidate in a presidential election called two years ahead of schedule. While India has enjoyed the status of being Sri Lanka's main economic partner for most part of its independent history and shares strong cultural and historical bonds, China is fast catching up and even overtook New Delhi as Colombo's largest trading partner in 2017.

Premajayantha said that parliament needed time to prepare to meet and there was not enough time to meet on November 5.

It was not clear if and when the 225-member parliament would vote on the UNP's motion that Wickremesinghe's dismissal was illegal.

Wickremensinghe tweeted saying "the people's voices have been heard". On Tuesday, thousands of Sri Lankans protested in the capital demanding Sirisena immediately convene Parliament. Jayasuriya, in a meeting with political party legislators, said President Sirisena had in a telephone conversation informed him that parliament would convene on November 7 and a gazette notification would be issued either Friday or Saturday.

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