Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena suspends parliament

Parliament suspended until May 8, says president’s office, in move following appearance of cracks in ruling coalition.

Sri Lanka''s Parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya leaves after a Parliament session marking the 70th anniversary of Sri LankaÕs Government, in Colombo
Sirisena's move came after the government promised a cabinet reshuffle [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Sri Lanka’s president has temporarily suspended parliament, according to his secretary, in a surprise move days after fractures appeared in the island nation’s ruling coalition government.

Maithripala Sirisena’s move came on Thursday after the government promised a cabinet reshuffle following a no-confidence motion against Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s prime minister, was defeated last week.

“The president has prorogued parliament until May 8,” Austin Fernando, Sirisena’s secretary, told Reuters news agency on Thursday, but declined to give any reasons for Sirisena’s decision.

Only one parliament sitting was scheduled before May 8 and the new cabinet will swear in on April 23, two government legislators said.

A senior minister, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said: “The prorogation means all the existing parliament committees will be lapsed and new committees have to be appointed when the parliament is reconvened.”

Some main parliament committees, including those looking into public enterprises and accounts, are headed by opposition lawmakers.

No confidence vote

Wickremesinghe survived the confidence vote, which was sponsored by opponents who blame him for failing to prevent an alleged scam in the bond market and anti-Muslim riots last month.

But 16 lawmakers, most of them ministers, from Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) voted in favour of the no-confidence motion. They resigned their portfolios and decided to sit with the opposition, weakening the SLFP’s coalition with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).

Sirisena appointed four ministers on a temporary basis to handle the main ministries.

Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, one of the 16 legislators who decided to join the opposition said: “We were to cross over and sit with the opposition on April 19. Now we will do that on May 8.”

Source: Reuters