After brawl, pandemonium halts Sri Lanka's Parliament

ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLOMBO
Published 17.11.2018 00:51

Pandemonium reigned in Sri Lanka's Parliament as lawmakers supporting disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa violently demonstrated in the house to prevent the proceedings from taking place on Friday, a day after a fierce brawl between rival legislators.

They threw books and chairs at police who escorted Speaker Karu Jayasuriya into the chamber and did not allow him to sit in the speaker's chair. Jayasuriya, using a microphone, adjourned the house until Monday. Lawmakers loyal to Rajapaksa hooted and continued to hurl abuses at Jayasuriya until he left the chamber. Arundika Fernando, a lawmaker allied with Rajapaksa, sat in the speaker's chair while others surrounded him shouted slogans.

On Thursday, rival lawmakers exchanged blows, leaving one injured, after the speaker announced there was no prime minister or government following Wednesday's no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa insisted the speaker had no authority to remove him and continued in his role as prime minister.

Sri Lanka has been in political crisis since Oct. 26, when President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed the former strongman Rajapaksa. Wickremsinghe says he has the majority support in the house.

On Thursday, Sirisena held an emergency meeting with the leaders of the opposition parties that voted for the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa. Sirisena asked that Parliament take up the motion again, striking the part that decried Wickremesinghe's ouster and Rajapaksa's appointment as unconstitutional and allow it to be debated and a roll-call vote to be taken.

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