Sri Lanka: MPs come to blows in the Parliament over PM dispute; crisis deepens

Rival lawmakers exchanged blows in Sri Lanka’s parliament as disputed Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed the speaker had no authority to remove him from office by voice vote

Sri Lanka: MPs come to blows in the Parliament over PM dispute; crisis deepens
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NH Web Desk

Rival lawmakers exchanged blows in Sri Lanka's parliament on Thursday, November 15, as disputed Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed the speaker had no authority to remove him from office by voice vote.

The fighting in the chamber came a day after it passed a no-confidence vote against Rajapaksa's government. When parliament re-convened, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the country had no government and there was no prime minister—either Rajapaksa or his rival Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was ousted in late October by the President Maithripala Sirisena .

Rajapaksa asserted, “A vote should have been taken. Such important motions should not be passed by a voice vote.” He added that Jayasuriya has no power to remove or appoint the prime minister and Cabinet members.

He accused the speaker of being partial and representing the position of his party, the United National Party, which is led by ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Rajapaksa also called for fresh elections, suggesting that it was the best way to resolvethe crisis

Clashes erupted after the opposition asked for a vote on Rajapaksa’s statement,with lawmakers supporting him gathering in the middle of the house while someran toward the speaker shouting slogans condemning his behavior. 

More than three dozen lawmakers fought and some who fell on the floor were kicked by rivals. Some of the lawmakers supporting Rajapaksa threw water bottles, books and trash cans at the speaker. Lawmakers opposed to Rajapaksa surrounded Jayasuriya to protect him. The ensuing commotion went on for about half an hour before Jayasuriya adjourned the house.

Sri Lanka has been in a crisis since October 26, when President Maithripala Sirisena suddenly fired Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa. Sirisena had also suspended Parliament, apparently to allow Rajapaksa time to gather support among lawmakers.

But Wickremesinghe insisted his firing was unconstitutional. He refused to vacate his official residence and demanded that Parliament be summoned to prove he still has support. Later, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court suspended Sirisena's order to dissolve Parliament and hold new elections until next month.

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