Sri Lankan parties agree to form select committee to conduct parliamentary affairs amidst crisis

PTI

Colombo: Ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe speaks with a lawmaker inside parliament in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. Pandemonium reigned in Sri Lanka's Parliament as lawmakers supporting disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa violently demonstrated in the house to prevent the proceedings from taking place on Friday, a day after a fierce brawl between rival legislators. They threw books and chairs at police who escorted Speaker Karu Jayasuriya into the chamber and did not allow him to sit in the speaker's chair. Jayasuriya, using a microphone, adjourned the house until Monday. AP/PTI

Colombo: Ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe speaks with a lawmaker inside parliament in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. Pandemonium reigned in Sri Lanka’s Parliament as lawmakers supporting disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa violently demonstrated in the house to prevent the proceedings from taking place on Friday, a day after a fierce brawl between rival legislators. They threw books and chairs at police who escorted Speaker Karu Jayasuriya into the chamber and did not allow him to sit in the speaker’s chair. Jayasuriya, using a microphone, adjourned the house until Monday. AP/PTI

Political parties in Sri Lanka agreed on Monday to form a select committee to conduct parliamentary affairs amidst a power struggle set off by President Maithripapala Sirisena’s controversial decision to remove prime minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe last month.

Sri Lanka’s Parliament, which was convened on Monday for a third floor test against disputed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was adjourned just ten minutes after its opening as the lawmakers could not decide on the members of the committee.

The decision to form the select committee came a day after an all-party meeting called by President Sirisena to resolve the crisis ended inconclusively.

The crisis erupted when President Sirisena suddenly announced on October 26 that he had sacked prime minister Wickremesinghe and installed ex-strongman Rajapaksa in his place.

Sirisena later dissolved Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered snap election. The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned President Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament and halted the preparations for snap polls on January 5.

When the House was convened on Monday, Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri said the party leaders who met earlier in the day resolved that a select committee would be appointed to conduct the parliamentary business.

Colombo: Sri Lankan disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks at the parliament chamber in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Rival lawmakers exchanged blows in Sri Lanka's Parliament on Thursday as disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed the speaker had no authority to remove him from office by voice vote. AP/PTI

Colombo: Sri Lankan disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks at the parliament chamber in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Rival lawmakers exchanged blows in Sri Lanka’s Parliament on Thursday as disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed the speaker had no authority to remove him from office by voice vote. AP/PTI

The leaders from Wickremesinghe’s United National Front, Tamil National Alliance and the JVP or the People’s Liberation Front discussed the proposal by Sirisena made at the all party meeting to have a floor test by name or electronic vote for the third motion of no trust against Rajapaksa.

Mano Ganesan, one of the leaders who attended the meeting, said the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA of Sirisena and Rajapaksa) “flatly refused and backtracked” on the proposal.

During Monday’s session, Dinesh Gunawardena on behalf of the disputed government of Rajapaksa asked the deputy speaker that since they were in the government they should have the majority in the select committee.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake argued that since the Rajapaksa government had not proved their majority the select committee should have a majority of members from the group that commands majority.

Monday’s session was conducted peacefully. The House was adjourned till November 23 ten minutes after its opening.

Last week Sri Lanka’s parliament witnessed unprecedented violence as lawmakers threw furniture and chilli powder at each other.

Colombo:  In this image made from video, Sri Lanka's lawmakers scuffle at the parliament in Colombo, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018.  Rival lawmakers have exchanged blows in Sri Lanka's Parliament as the disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed the speaker had no authority to remove him from office by voice vote. (AP/PTI)

Colombo: In this image made from video, Sri Lanka’s lawmakers scuffle at the parliament in Colombo, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Rival lawmakers have exchanged blows in Sri Lanka’s Parliament as the disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed the speaker had no authority to remove him from office by voice vote. (AP/PTI)

On Monday, the public and VIP galleries were shut for diplomats on a request by Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). The security was also tightened to prevent any incident, officials said.

Last week, the apex court issued a temporary order against Sirisena’s sacking of parliament with hearing of the case fixed for early December.

After the temporary order, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya reconvened parliament the sittings of which had been suspended by Sirisena till November 14.

Jayasuriya’s decision not to recognise Rajapaksa as the prime minister until a floor test is held has angered Sirisena.

Jayasuriya, meanwhile, came down hard on those responsible for violence inside the House on November 16.

“The Speaker informed the party leaders that he had already called for a report on the ugly and illegal behaviour such as bringing in weapons to the chamber, chilli powder attacks, causing damages to public property, exchange of fisticuffs and other breaches of discipline,” a statement said.

(PTI)