HW English

Sri Lanka Parliament bars Rajapaksa from using state funds

Colombo | Sri Lankan Parliament Thursday overwhelmingly passed a motion to suspend the expenditure of the Prime Minister’s Office, dealing a major blow to strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa who was appointed premier by President Maithripala Sirisena in a controversial move that plunged the country into a constitutional crisis.

The motion was passed with 123 lawmakers voting in favour of the motion and none opposing it in the 225-member House as Rajapaksa’s supporters boycotted the session. “Such a motion cannot be presented by the Opposition. It must be presented only by a government minister,” SB Dissanayake, a member of Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) party, said.

Observers opine that the passing of the motion, stripping prime minister’s secretary from spending money from the state account, was yet another indication that Rajapaksa lacked simple majority of 113 in the House to continue as the premier.

The motion, which was approved, read, “Parliament resolves that from November 15, Secretary to the Prime Minister has no authority to approve any expenditure drawn from the funds of the Republic and any person taking any action in violation of this resolution will be dealt with according to the law.”

Lanka is witnessing a political crisis since October 26 when President Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa.

Sirisena later dissolved Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered snap election. The Supreme Court overturned Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament and halted the preparations for snap polls. Both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa claim to be the prime ministers.

Wickremesinghe says his dismissal is invalid because he still holds a majority in the 225-member Parliament.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has officially conveyed that the House does not recognise Rajapaksa as the legal prime minister until he proved his majority in the House.

The United National Front led by Wickeremesinghe has moved three motions of no trust against Rajapaksa. However, he refused to step down.

The parliamentarians comprising members of the UNF, JVP and TNA filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the former president, challenging him to prove on what authority he is holding office as the prime minister after the Parliament voted twice to defeat him on November 14 and November 16.

The November 16 session witnessed unprecedented violence as lawmakers threw furniture and chilli powder at each other.

Jayasuriya had called the police into the House as lawmakers were seen breaking furniture to attack the police, while there were video images of some MPs carrying sharp objects and an MP was seen throwing chilli powder mixed with water at the policemen. The violence had left some lawmakers injured.

The Speaker Thursday announced he has appointed a committee to probe the violence in the Parliament.

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