Sri Lankan parties agree to form select committee to conduct parliamentary affairs amid political infighting

Colombo: Political parties in Sri Lanka agreed on Monday to form a select committee to conduct parliamentary affairs amid a power struggle set off by President Maithripapala Sirisena's controversial decision to remove prime minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe in October.

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.

 Sri Lankan parties agree to form select committee to conduct parliamentary affairs amid political infighting

File photo of Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena. AFP

The crisis erupted when President Sirisena suddenly announced on 26 October 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 5 January.

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.

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 23 November ten minutes after its opening.

Last week Sri Lanka's parliament witnessed an unprecedented violence.

"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 14 November.

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 16 November.

"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.

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Updated Date: Nov 19, 2018 23:22:41 IST