Supporters of Sri Lanka's fired prime minister and a top election official yesterday challenged in court the president's sacking of parliament, upping the ante in a political crisis that has sparked international alarm. President Maithripala Sirisena late Friday called snap elections and dissolved the legislature, two weeks after sacking the prime minister and installing the divisive Mahinda Rajapakse in his place.
Three political parties holding an absolute majority in parliament and an election commissioner, one of three officials tasked with conducting polls, on Monday asked the Supreme Court to declare the president's actions illegal. Commissioner Ratnajeevan Hoole was among 12 petitioners arguing that Sirisena had violated the constitution. In the five-page petition, Hoole said Sirisena broke the law in calling the snap elections for January 5 after a string of unconstitutional moves since October 26 when he fired Ranil Wickremesinghe, the prime minister.
Wickremesinghe remains holed up in the prime minister's official residence, and both he and Rajapakse are attempting to run parallel administrations. On Sunday night, speaker Karu Jayasuriya urged civil servants to defy Sirisena's "illegal orders." But later Sirisena defended his actions, saying violence among rival MPs could have led to "civil unrest" across Sri Lanka if the legislature had met as scheduled this week. Sirisena's rivals maintain that he had no constitutional power to sack the assembly until it completes four-and-a-half years of its five-year term that ends in August 2020.