Members of the Sri Lankan Parliament call the slogan in support of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during a parliamentary…
Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP / Getty Images
It was the first Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa first day in parliament, along with the legislators he was appointed leader. But he received a less than welcome reception.
Instead, Parliament saves no time to pass confidence in him, less than three weeks after he swore into the job.
When Parliament’s speakers announced a debate about the movement, the House left to chaos, with Rajapaksa’s supporters calling out the slogans of injustice. Rajapaksa and his son, a colleague, stormed out before the final vote was read.
The proposal passed 122 votes from the 225-seat house.
Outside the riot police stood between angry followers of rival politicians.
A former president and strongman, Rajapaksa, emerged from Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war as a hero to many of the country’s Buddhist majority. But he is deeply unpopular among minority ethnic tamils, especially in the north of the country, where he led an opposition to Tamil separatists who killed thousands of civilians.
He was appointed prime minister on October 26 after the current president has resigned the existing Ranil Wickremesinghe, to which a majority of legislators are loyal.
Many of Wickremesing’s followers carried lines to Parliament on Wednesday, embroidered the words “for democracy”.
The trust can force Rajapaksa’s resignation, although his allies say they do not recognize the legitimacy of Wednesday’s vote. Nevertheless, the latest dragged one-week constitutional crisis in the eastern citizen of about 21 million in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern tip of India, which counts with one of Asia’s oldest democracies.
Nine years after coming from civil war, the country has become a battlefield for competing influence between neighboring India and China. Beijing has invested heavily in Sri Lankan’s infrastructure, as its economic growth slows down to its lowest level for more than a decade. Rajapaksa is considered to be closer to China than Wickremesinghe.
The last crisis began at the end of last month when President Maithripala Sirisena shocked the country by announcing that he had discovered an alleged plot to kill him and that it meant a cabinet minister. He did not offer details or names, but broke the fired Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa in his place.
Then Wickremesinghe refused to go down and left two men claiming to be Sri Lanka’s justice prime minister.
It still seems to be the case. From late Wednesday, both men’s Twitter accounts list their titles as prime minister.
After the confidence movement, Wickremsinghe tweeted that he would “now take steps to ensure that the government will commence on October 26th.”
“You can not make illegal orders from the alleged government that failed to show people’s confidence,” he wrote, commenting on “all government officials and police officers.”
The US Department has expressed “concern” about the current crisis and, in conjunction with other foreign governments and civil society groups, called on legislators to continue the dialogue in parliament.
After Wickremsinghe was dismissed last month, violence broke out in areas around government buildings in the capital Colombo, when one of his prime ministers tried to return to his office. One person was killed in the chaos.
Since last week, Sirisena dissolved the parliament after it became apparent that Rajapaksa could not gather enough support to form his own government. The president called free elections for Jan 5th.
By Tuesday, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court intervened, suspended the resolution of the Sisisan parliament and ordered legislators to continue working until December. Justices say they will issue a final decision on December 7 about Wickremesing’s constitutional concern.
It’s unclear what’s next.
Sirisena could reintroduce Wickremesinghe, but he has previously promised not to. He could appoint someone else as prime minister. Or he could wait for the Supreme Court’s decision next month.