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Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena dismisses parliament

12 November 2018

"It's totally unconstitutional", said Harsha de Silva, a member of Wickremesinghe's United National Party and a former minister.

He called for snap polls on January 5, soon after his coalition reportedly said that it could not get enough votes in support of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as Prime Minister.

Amid mounting local and worldwide pressure, he announced that he will reconvene parliament november 14 and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said he was going to call for a vote on that day itself to see whether Rajapaksa, commanded enough support. "I acted to prevent civil unrest".

Rajapaksa, who led Sri Lanka for a decade before he lost to Sirisena and Wickremesinghe in 2015, has defended the push for a new election as a way to bring stability to the country.

Keheliya Rambukwella, a spokesman for Sirisena's government, said the president's coalition had the backing of 105 lawmakers as of Friday, eight short of a parliamentary majority.

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Dayasiri Jayasekara, a cabinet minister, has expressed his support for Sirisena's decision to dissolve the legislature.

Wickremesinghe denounced Sirisena's attempt to remove him from office and refused to leave the official prime minister's residence, claiming the president does not have the power to take such action.

Given those views, it was not immediately clear how Sirisena can legally dissolve parliament, though his legal experts have said there are provisions for him to do so.

The party said in a Twitter message that it would meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of Sirisena's move.

Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday denied web media reports, that he would wait for the Supreme Court's opinion on the legality of the dissolution of Parliament before proceeding with preparations for a General Election. Dinesh Gunawardena, a newly appointed urban development minister, said the president had handed the country back to the people.

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The United National Party, the northern-based Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will challenge the dissolution, what Samaraweera termed as "tyranny" and "hitting the constitution in its teeth".

New elections are likely to be held in early January, almost two years earlier than originally planned, a government minister told the AFP news agency.

Rajapakse and ousted Wickremesinghe have been battling for power for two weeks as global concern grew over the mounting turmoil in the strategically important island nation. "A general election will truly establish the will of the people and make way for a stable country".

The leftist People's Liberation Front (JVP), which regards the sacking of Wickremesinghe as unconstitutional, accused Sirisena of trying to consolidate his power grab.

The power struggle on the island of 21 million people has paralysed much of the administration, according to legislators on both sides of the dispute.

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Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena dismisses parliament