Throw the book at him: Sri Lanka parliament descends into farce
By Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal
COLOMBO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's parliament descended
into chaos for a second day on Friday as lawmakers supporting
newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa threw books,
chili paste and water bottles at the Speaker to try to disrupt a
second no-confidence motion.
The vote went ahead anyway and for a second time lawmakers
turned against Rajapaksa and his new government, possibly
opening the way for the return of Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime
Wickremesinghe was removed by President Maithripala Sirisena
late last month and replaced with Rajapaksa, plunging the
country into political turmoil.
"We have the majority," Wickremesinghe told reporters. "We
can form our government and we will act accordingly."
Sirisena is now faced with the choice of either reappointing
the man he kicked out only a few weeks ago, or allowing the
crisis to continue with potentially damaging consequences for
Rajapaksa supporters poured on to the floor of parliament,
surrounding the Speaker's chair, and demanded the arrest of two
lawmakers from Wickremesinghe's party for allegedly bringing
knives into the house on Thursday.
An MP from Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna party sat
on Speaker Karu Jayasuriya's chair surrounded by more than 20
lawmakers, delaying the start of proceedings. Rajapaksa
loyalists then tried to prevent Jayasuriya from sitting on a
second chair brought in by police.
When Jayasuriya started calling out names to know whom MPs
supported, Rajapaksa supporters threw the books and chili paste
Parliament on Wednesday passed the first no-confidence
motion against Rajapaksa and his government with the backing of
122 of 225 lawmakers in a voice vote, followed by a signed
document. Sirisena had not accepted that result, calling for the
Sirisena dissolved parliament last week and ordered
elections to break the deadlock. But the Supreme Court ordered a
suspension of that decree on Tuesday until it had heard
petitions challenging the move as unconstitutional.
Sources close to the leadership have said Sirisena's
decision to sack Wickremesinghe came after the prime minister's
party rejected the president's request to back him for second
five-year term in the 2020 presidency. They had also split over
whether to back Chinese or Indian investors in various projects,
the sources said.
India and Western countries have requested Sirisena act in
line with the constitution while raising concerns over
Rajapaksa's close ties with China. Beijing loaned Sri Lanka
billions of dollars for infrastructure projects when Rajapaksa
was president between 2005-2015.
Tourism accounts for nearly 5 percent of the economy and is
a key main foreign exchange earner, along with the garment and
tea industries, and remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by
Krishna N. Das and Nick Macfie)
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