Sri Lanka's president has summoned Parliament to meet next week as pressure grows for him to resolve the turmoil set off when he sacked the Cabinet last week, his chosen prime minister said yesterday. President Maithripala Sirisena made the decision a day after meeting with Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who previously warned of possible violence if lawmakers were not summoned immediately.
On Friday, Sirisena had dismissed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet, later telling reporters he acted in part because Wickremesinghe and a Cabinet colleague were behind an alleged assassination plot against him. Details of the alleged plot have not been disclosed and Wickremesinghe denies the accusation.
Sirisena had replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa and suspended Parliament until Nov. 16 in an apparent attempt to give Rajapaksa time to muster enough support to survive any no-confidence vote.
Wickremesinghe had demanded the convening of Parliament, saying he still controls a majority of lawmakers. Sirisena's moves have triggered a power struggle and some observers call it a constitutional crisis. In remarks broadcast on state television, Rajapaksa told a meeting at his office that Sirisena decided to summon Parliament on Nov. 5.
Rival Asian giants India and China are anxiously watching the constitutional conflict between contending prime ministers in Sri Lanka to see whose interests get the upper hand in their own strategic battle. It is the second time in barely a month that the Indian Ocean has become a battleground between the powers, after the Maldives' hotly disputed presidential election saw the eviction of a pro-Chinese leader. Both may be minnows compared to the two giant neighbors that loom over it to the north. But they sit on the key sea trade and oil routes from Asia to the Middle East and Europe making them vital strategic interests for the rival powers. New Delhi and Beijing insist that they are watching from outside the political ring.