Sri Lanka parliament speaker refuses to recognise Rajapaksa as PM

Karu Jayasuriya says he won't accept Rajapaksa as prime minister until he proves majority in 225-member parliament.

    Speaker of Sri Lanka's parliament has said he will not accept Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister until he proves a majority in 225-member parliament.

    President Maithripala Sirisena fired the sitting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and appointed Rajapaksa - a controversial former president - in his place, throwing the country in a constitutional crisis with two rival prime ministers.

    "The majority of the members are of the view that the changes done in the parliament are unconstitutional and against the traditions," Karu Jayasuriya, the speaker of parliament from Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP), said in a statement on Monday.

    "Therefore, I am requested by the majority of the parliament to accept the position which was prior to these changes. Until the new group shows the majority, I will have to accept the status quo prior to the changes."

    'Too late'

    On Sunday, Sirisena ordered parliament to reconvene in 10 days to resolve the protracted political crisis, drawing sharp criticism from Wickremesinghe's party which decried it as "too late".

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    Sirisena had suspended parliamentary proceedings until November 16 after abruptly firing Prime Minister Wickremesinghe last week and replacing him with Rajapaksa.

    The United Nations and many Western countries have urged Sirisena to summon the House immediately.

    Mangala Samaraweera, a member of UNP, condemned Sirisena's decision to recall parliament two days prior to the initial suspension order, saying it was "an eyewash to appease the ever increasing" international and local pressure.

    The deposed leader has demanded a vote to prove his majority. But in recent days, a steady stream of defections has eroded his narrow majority in the House.

    At least eight legislators from the UNP and a member of an opposition party have now crossed over to the Sirisena and Rajapaksa-led United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), which had the backing of 96 legislators prior to the crisis.

    Nearly all politicians who left the UNP took up ministerial posts in the new cabinet.

    While the president has the authority to appoint the prime minister, he does not have the power to sack the incumbent, legal experts have said, citing constitutional amendments passed three years ago.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies