Sirisena’s all-party meet proves inconclusive

Updated - November 18, 2018 11:46 pm IST

Published - November 18, 2018 10:30 pm IST - Colombo

File photo of Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena.

File photo of Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena.

An all-party conference convened by President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday ended without an agreement, prolonging the political crisis that has gripped Sri Lanka for over three weeks.

Mr. Sirisena called for a meeting of all party representatives on Sunday, in the wake of a political deadlock following a no-confidence motion against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr. Rajapaksa, who was controversially appointed Prime Minister on October 26, was defeated by three votes in the House last week, but has refused to accept the result citing “procedural” reasons.

However, MPs aligned to deposed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe and from other Opposition parties have countered the claim, pointing to specific provisions that allow such a vote. The House took up a vote on Friday under tumultuous circumstances, with Mr. Rajapaksa’s MPs resorting to violence against MPs challenging them.

The political stalemate has since persisted, with Mr. Rajapaksa refusing to step down and Mr. Wickremesinghe declaring that he had the numbers to form government.

Logjam persists

But little progress was made on Sunday, sources said. “We have placed our cards on the table. We told the President that those who do not agree with the Speaker’s earlier rulings could move a motion against them in the House,” United National Party (UNP) MP Lakshman Kiriella told mediapersons after the meeting. Asked about the President’s response, he said it was “nil”. Mr. Rajapaksa’s side, on the other hand, reiterated its accusation that parliamentary process had been breached. His MPs sought a fresh vote.

Opposition party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) earlier said its members would not attend the meeting. “You are the architect of the anarchy and instability the country is subjected to at present. It could be corrected only by you. We do not believe a solution could be reached by having a mere discussion with you,” its leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told Mr. Sirisena in a strongly-worded letter.

The developments in Colombo has sparked concern in neighbouring Male. “As a new dawn breaks in the Maldives, it’s heartbreaking to see Sri Lanka in such difficulty. I hope Sri Lanka will soon come out of this predicament. Sri Lankans are like our cousins, and Maldivians celebrate today only because of Sri Lanka’s help and support,” former President of the Maldives Mohammed Nasheed said in a tweet.

With Parliament scheduled to reconvene on Monday, Mr. Sirisena has urged MPs to go for a vote by name or through the electronic voting system, a media release said.

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