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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Unruly Sri Lanka MPs force adjournment without vote

Speaker prevented from taking seat in second day of violence

Sri Lankan MPs argue in front of the speaker, Karu Jayasuriya, on November 15, 2018. Reuters
Sri Lankan MPs argue in front of the speaker, Karu Jayasuriya, on November 15, 2018. Reuters

Pandemonium reigned again in Sri Lanka's parliament on Friday as MPs supporting disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa demonstrated violently in the house to prevent 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. Mr Jayasuriya, using a microphone, adjourned the house until Monday.

Lawmakers loyal to Rajapaksa hooted and continued to hurl abuses at Mr Jayasuriya until he left the chamber. Arundika Fernando, an MP allied with Mr Rajapaksa, sat in the speaker's chair while others surrounded him shouting 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 Mr Rajapaksa.

Mr 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 October 26, when President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mr Rajapaksa. Mr Wickremsinghe says he has the majority support in the house.

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Mr Rajapaksa, a former president, is considered a hero by some in the ethnic Sinhalese majority for ending a long civil war by crushing ethnic Tamil Tiger rebels. However, his time in power was marred by allegations of wartime atrocities, corruption and nepotism.

Tensions had been building between Mr Sirisena and Mr Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister. Mr Sirisena has also accused Mr Wickremesinghe and another cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Mr Wickremesinghe has repeatedly denied.

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

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