Ousted Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe's alliance today won control of a powerful panel in Parliament, dealing a major blow to President Maithripala Sirisena and his prime ministerial appointee Mahinda Rajapaksa.
President Sirisena's party members walked out of Parliament, which resumed its session today after being adjourned on Monday, protesting against Speaker Karu Jayasuriya's move to appoint five members of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) which is led by the President.
The Speaker named five members from the United National Front (UNF) of ousted prime minister Wickeremesinghe, and one each from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). This is in continuation of the political unrest plaguing the country since October 26.
Both Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa claim to be the prime ministers. Mr Wickremesinghe says his dismissal is invalid because he still holds a majority in the 225-member Parliament.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, at the start of the session, announced that following a meeting of all party leaders which ended without an agreement over the composition of the committee, he had decided to grant five members each to the UPFA and the UNF.
The committee would comprise 12 members, he said.
Senior UPFA member Dinesh Gunawardena slammed the speaker's conduct as biased. "I urge you to recognise us as the government and give us the majority in the select committee," he demanded despite not having a majority in Parliament.
"We have precedents that even during the minority governments in the past the government had been given majority in the select committee," he claimed.
Lakshman Kiriella on behalf of the ousted government said that Speaker Jayasuriya has declared the members based on two previous votes that there was no government and the purported government does not exist.
Wimal Weerawansa, another Sirisena backer, threatened that if Speaker Jayasuriya was not recognising the government, they would not recognise Mr Jayasuriya as Speaker.
"We will leave the chamber allowing you to conduct a meeting of the United National Party," Mr Weerawansa threatened and led President Sirisena's side out of the chamber.
Mr Jayasuriya then followed the constitutional procedure and went ahead to take a vote on his decision on the select committee composition, after a vote was moved by JVP's Vijitha Herath.
The proposal was adopted with 121 votes for and nothing against. The members of the UNF, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the Tamil National Alliance voted in favour.
Sri Lanka is witnessing a political crisis since President Sirisena abruptly sacked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on October 26.
President Sirisena later dissolved Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered snap election. Sri Lanka's Supreme Court stepped in and overturned President Sirisena's abrupt decision to dissolve Parliament and halted the preparations for snap polls.
Speaker Jayasuriya then ordered a floor test in the 225-member assembly to end the ongoing political crisis.
The UNF has already moved two motions of no trust against Mahinda Rajapaksa and they are to move a third vote again, perhaps today. Mahinda Rajapaksa, however, refused to step down.
On Wednesday, ousted prime minister Wickremesinghe's party handed Parliament another motion, demanding suspension of funds of all ministry secretaries whom they claim had been illegally appointed since October 26.
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