COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to dissolve parliament, exacerbating an already major political crisis, has sparked criticism from Western powers, including the United States and Britain.
A man reads a newspaper at the booth announcing the dissolution of the Sri Lankan Parliament, on a main street in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on November 10, 2018.REUTERS / Dinuka Liyanawatte
Sirisena dissolved Parliament on Friday night, only five days before resuming work, but the new cabinet he installed threatened to lose a vote of no confidence. Sirisena also called a general election on January 5th.
The president unleashed a power struggle by sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month and naming former island leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, a pro-China man, defeated by Sirisena in an election. in 2015, in its place.
Sirisena's rivals are expected to oppose his decision, which they describe as illegal and unconstitutional, before the Supreme Court on Monday.
The US Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said in a tweet that the United States was "deeply concerned by reports that the Sri Lankan Parliament would be dissolved, further aggravating the political crisis" . He said democracy must be respected to ensure stability and prosperity.
The British Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field, has expressed his concerns about the dissolution of Parliament a few days before its convening.
"As a friend of Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom calls on all parties to respect the constitution and to respect democratic institutions and processes," Field said.
The Twitter thread of Canada's foreign policy said it was "deeply concerned" by this decision and raised the risks for reconciliation work done after the civil war in the country.
"This new political uncertainty is corrosive to Sri Lanka's democratic future and its commitments to reconciliation and accountability," he said.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed both her concern and disappointment in a statement, saying the move would "undermine Sri Lanka's long democratic tradition and threaten its stability and prosperity".
Sirisena said he had dismissed Wickremesinghe because the prime minister was trying to implement "a new extreme liberal political concept by giving more priority to foreign policy and neglecting the feelings of local people."
Mangala Samaraweera, an ally of Wickremesinghe, said that his party is waiting for the court to declare the dissolution of the parliament illegal and that a vote in parliament take place to verify if there is a majority .
"We will show that we have the majority of parliament and that the dictator president dissolved a government that had a majority in parliament," he told reporters.
They were supported by the Tamil National Alliance, the main party representing Tamil ethnic groups in Parliament, who said they would also appeal to the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the house.
"This is a clear violation of the constitution. The president can not do that, "spokesman for the alliance, A. Sumanthiran, told Reuters.
India and the West have expressed concern over Rajapaksa's close ties with China. Beijing lent Sri Lanka billions of dollars to finance infrastructure projects when Rajapaksa was president between 2005 and 2015, which deeply indebted the country.
Wickremesinghe refused to leave the prime minister's official residence, claiming that he was the prime minister and that he had a parliamentary majority.
Before signing the dissolution and parliament documents, Sirisena appointed his allies and those of Rajapaksa to ministerial positions.
One of them said that Sirisena was right to order elections to end the political crisis. Dinesh Gunawardena, a new minister of urban development, said the president had returned the country to the people.
"It's the right to vote people. We went before the people. No force can intervene. The people's mandate is supreme, "he said.
Independent legal experts told Reuters that the parliament could only be dissolved at the beginning of 2020, four and a half years after the first sitting of the current parliament. The only other legal route would be a referendum or with the consent of two-thirds of the legislators.
In view of these views, the dissolution of the Parliament did not clarify Sirisena's position in complete legal certainty, although his legal experts stated that he had provisions to that effect.
Additional report by Tom Westbrook in Sydney; Edited by Martin Howell, Sanjeev Miglani