Sri Lanka's deposed prime minister secured control of a key committee in parliament Friday, dealing a blow to the country's president in the latest twist in a month-long political crisis.
Sri Lanka has been politically paralyzed since Oct. 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier and replaced him with former leader Mahinda Rajapakse. But a vote on Friday gave Wickremesinghe control of a selection committee entrusted with setting the legislative agenda in the absence of a working government. Shortly before Speaker Karu Jayasuriya took a vote on setting up the panel, legislators loyal to Sirisena and Rajapakse walked out of the chamber in protest. Rajapakse has lost two no-confidence votes in the assembly, but refuses to step down. Wickremesinghe, despite being sacked a month ago, insists he is still in office and continues to occupy his official residence.
Last week, chaos broke out in the assembly with Sirisena and Rajapakse loyalists attacking rivals with chili powder and chairs to disrupt the second no-confidence motion against Rajapakse. Two weeks after sacking Wickremesinghe, Sirisena initially suspended parliament and then dissolved it, calling snap elections for January. However these moves were suspended by the Supreme Court days later pending an investigation. The legislature reconvened last week but degenerated into a punch-up. For 19 days, Sri Lanka had two claimants to the prime minister's post, but since last Thursday parliament speaker Jayasuriya held that he would recognize neither.