UNP to challenge 'illegal' dissolution of Parliament

UNP to challenge 'illegal' dissolution of Parliament

The President of Sri Lanka dissolved parliament on Friday and called a snap election for January 5, in a move aimed at ending a political standoff that has disrupted its capital, Colombo, for weeks.

President Sirisena's gross violation of the constitution by sacking the Prime Minister on October 26 created a political crisis which he could not resolve.

The notice said the names of candidates for new elections will be called before 26 November, and the election will be held on 5 January.

The president was acting well within his constitutional rights in dismissing the parliament, Jayasekara stressed, adding: "The best thing is do now is go for an election".

Mark Field, the British minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, said: "As a friend of Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom calls on all parties to uphold the constitution and respect democratic institutions and processes".

The crisis started two weeks ago when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and named Rajapaksa as his successor.

The United National Party (UNP) has rejected the dissolution of the Parliament while accusing the President of robbing the people of their rights and democracy.

The 225-seat parliament will end at midnight Friday and a new one will meet January 17 after a vote January 5, according to a presidential announcement.

A political crisis in the Indian ocean nation deepened on Friday night when Maithripala Sirisena announced he was dissolving parliament, which opponents said was an illegal order.

Parliamentary speaker Karu Jayasuriya, however, slammed Sirisena's actions as a "coup, albeit without the use of tanks and guns".

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Sirisena had said on Monday that he had the support of 113 legislators when he sacked Wickremesinghe.

"The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament", said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at US -based analyst group Atlantic Council's South Asia Center.

The leftist People's Liberation Front (JVP), which regards the sacking of Wickremesinghe as unconstitutional, accused Sirisena of trying to consolidate his power grab.

Wickremesinghe denounced Sirisena's attempt to remove him from office and refused to leave the official prime minister's residence, claiming the president does not have the power to take such action.

Sirisena suspended parliament to give himself more time to engineer defections, according to the opposition.

This is despite several legislators saying they were offered millions of dollars to switch allegiance.

The EU, in a joint statement with Norway and Switzerland, called for parliament to reconvene and hold an immediate vote.

The incoming head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee warned Sirisena he was jeopardizing U.S. assistance including a package under discussion through the Millennium Challenge Cooperation, which supports countries that observe democratic norms.

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

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