Sri Lanka king-maker Tamils and Muslims back restoring Ranil

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s main minority party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Thursday asked President Maithripala Sirisena to restore the government that existed prior to October 26 saying they support Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government. The TNA said their 14 members will support a government of the United National Front (UNF), but stopped short of demanding Wickremesinghe’s restoration, leaving it to the United National Party (UNP) dominated  UNF.

The TNA in their letter to President Sirisena said the man he installed as prime minister on October 26, Kurunegala district MP Mahinda Rajapaksa had failed to prove his majority in the 225-member assembly for over a month. The TNA said it was concerned about the debilitating power struggle in the country and urged Sirisena to resolve it without dragging it any further. “We respectfully submit that this situation should not continue,” said the TNA which has 14 seats in the 225-member legislature. “In the circumstances, the TNA will support the restoration of the government as it existed prior to October 26.”

There was no immediate response from Sirisena to the TNA letter addressed to Sirisena and released to the press. Sirisena told Colombo-based foreign correspondents on Sunday that he will not reinstate Wickremesinghe even if he proved a majority in the House.

There had been violent scenes in the legislature two weeks ago with Sirisena-Rajapakse loyalists throwing chairs and chilli powder at rivals in a failed bid to stop two no-confidence motions against their purported government.

Wickremesinghe’s party has 103 MPs while Rajapakse and Sirisena together have 101.

However, with TNA’s 14 backing Wickremesinghe, his party gets a comfortable 117, four seats more than the minimum required for an absolute majority in the 225-member assembly.

Sri Lanka’s second largest minority, the Muslim community, is also supporting Wickremesinghe while 6 leftist MPs have said they will remain neutral.

Wickremesinghe’s party scored another success Thursday voted overwhelmingly to block any spending by the prime minister’s office now occupied by Rajapakse despite losing two no-confidence motions in the House. Wickremesinghe has also refused to stand aside despite his controversial sacking last month.

The war-era strongman Rajapakse has doubled down and backed by Sirisena, has named a cabinet and assumed duties as head of a disputed government without parliamentary support. “We propose to stop any spending because he is not holding the position of prime minister legally,” said Ravi Karunanayake, a legislator from Wickremesinghe’s party told parliament Thursday.

“This is a rogue government and parliament will take back control of finances through this motion.”

It worsens matters for the purported government headed by Rajapakse, which has been unable to present a budget for 2019 and risks entering the new year without parliamentary approval for any new spending.

Moody’s recently downgraded Sri Lanka’s credit rating amid warnings the island could default on its considerable foreign debt.

Meanwhile, two MPs defected from the Sirisena-Rajapakse faction on Thursday to Wickremesinghe’s camp, dealing a further blow to the ailing government unable to stamp its authority since last month. (COLOMBO, November 29, 2018)

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