In a major setback to President Maithripala Sirisena, the Sri Lankan Parliament on Wednesday passed a no-confidence motion against the government headed by his controversially-appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Parliament on Wednesday met for the first time since October 26, when President Sirisena sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and suspended the Parliament plunging the island nation into a crisis.
Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced that a majority of the 225-member assembly supported the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa, who was appointed by President Sirisena as prime minister on October 26 in place of Wickremesinghe.
“According to the voice, I recognise that the government has no majority,” Jayasuriya announced in the House as Rajapaksa supporters protested.
He gave the ruling after the no-confidence motion was taken for a vote. The Speaker calculated the votes based on the voices he heard as Rajapaksa supporters disrupted the proceedings.
Jayasuriya later adjourned the House until 10 am Thursday.
Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa later told reporters that the Government clearly lost the floor test.
He said Prime Minister Rajapaksa must now step down as he does not have majority support in Parliament.
The unexpected session on Wednesday morning comes a day after the Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned President Sirisena’s controversial decision to dissolve Parliament and halted the preparations for snap polls on January 5.
In its ruling, the apex court had said Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament will be suspended until December 7 and it will consider all the petitions filed on the President’s decision next month before giving a final ruling.
After the court verdict, Speaker Jayasuriya summoned Parliament’s session for Wednesday morning.
Sirisena dissolved Parliament after it became clear that he lacked support from lawmakers to instal Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister following his sacking of Wickremesinghe as premier.
While sacking prime minister Wickremesinghe, president Sirisena had also suspended Parliament till November 16. He, however, advanced the convening of the House to November 14 amid international and domestic pressure against the move.
Major political parties, including the United National Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and an election commission member Ratnajeevan Hoole, on Monday dragged Sirisena to the Supreme Court, challenging his decision by filing fundamental rights petitions against the move, which they said violated the Constitution.
Sirisena dissolved Parliament last week, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered snap election on January 5, plunging the country’s into an unprecedented political and constitutional crises.
Wickremesinghe has maintained that his sacking by Sirisena was unconstitutional and illegal and he was still the prime minister.
Wickremesinghe had demanded that Parliament be convened to hold a vote among the lawmakers to decide who enjoyed majority support in Parliament to be the Prime Minister.
As pressure grew and both sides claimed they had the numbers, the President dissolved Parliament and called for elections.
Rajapaksa needed the support of minimum 113 parliamentarians in the 225-member House to prove his majority.
Sirisena on Sunday stoutly defended his move to dissolve Parliament, saying it was taken to prevent clashes among rival lawmakers. He said there were reports that politicians would clash during the floor test, which was due on November 14.
Rajapaksa, 72, who ruled Lanka for a nearly decades from 2005, was unexpectedly defeated by his deputy Sirisena in the presidential election held in January 2015 with the support from Wickremesinghe’s UNP.
However, the power-sharing arrangement between Sirisena and Wickremesing he became increasingly tenuous on several policy matters, especially on issues like the economy and security. And subsequently, Sirisena abruptly ousted Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa.