US, UK raise concerns on dissolving Parliament in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved parliament on Friday night and called a general election for January 5 in a move that will likely deepen the country's political crisis.

State television network Rupavahini announced on Friday that Sirisena signed a notification announcing the dissolution of Parliament effective at midnight Friday.

The notice will become official once it's published, and it is required to include dates for nominations for fresh elections.

Sirisena sparked the crisis on 26 October by sacking Wickremesinghe and replacing him as prime minister with Rajapakse, the country's authoritarian president from 2005 until 2015.

Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Monday slammed Sirisena's "unconstitutional and undemocratic" actions to sack Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and suspend parliament, saying he will not recognise Rajapaksa as the new premier unless he wins a floor test.

Worldwide concern has grown over the mounting turmoil, with Wickremesinghe refusing to leave the premier's official residence while the president also suspended parliament to head off any revolt against his action.

The party said in a Twitter message that it will meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of Sirisena's move.

Wickremesinghe, however, claims he is still the legally appointed prime minister.

"Unfortunately, we fear that recent actions, if not corrected, will threaten your country's democratic development and derail the progress made in recent years", said the letter to Sirisena.

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Sirisena had suspended the assembly's work until mid-November when first moving against his prime minister.

The leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya Udaya Gammanpila earlier in the day said the President can exercise power vested with him under article 33 (2) c of the constitution to dissolve the Parliament. At least eight have switched sides, but at least 120 deputies in the 225-seat parliament remain loyal to Wickramasinghe.

Wickremesinghe's camp is likely to contest Sirisena's move because of constitutional provisions stating a Parliament can't be dissolved until four years after its election.

The EU said Friday, before the dissolution, that the crisis had scarred the Indian Ocean island's global reputation.

"Any further delay could damage Sri Lanka's worldwide reputation and deter investors", the statement said.

Wickremesinghe late Thursday thanked his supporters and urged them not to give up in the showdown.

"You have not let this country be plunged into the darkness of dictatorship".

The power struggle on the island of 21 million people has paralysed much of the administration, according to legislators on both sides of the dispute.

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