Colombo: In a major setback to President Maithripala Sirisena, the Sri Lankan Parliament on Wednesday passed a no-confidence motion against the government headed by his controversially-appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Parliament on Wednesday met for the first time since 26 October, when President Sirisena sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and suspended the Parliament plunging the island nation into a crisis.
Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced that a majority of the 225-member assembly supported the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa, who was appointed by President Sirisena as prime minister on 26 October in place of Wickremesinghe.
“According to the voice, I recognise that the government has no majority,” Jayasuriya announced in the House as Rajapaksa supporters protested.
He gave the ruling after the no-confidence motion was taken for a vote. The Speaker calculated the votes based on the voices he heard as Rajapaksa supporters disrupted the proceedings.
Jayasuriya later adjourned the House until 10 AM Thursday.
Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa later told reporters that the Government clearly lost the floor test.
He said Prime Minister Rajapaksa must now step down as he does not have majority support in Parliament.
The unexpected session on Wednesday morning comes a day after the Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned President Sirisena’s controversial decision to dissolve Parliament and halted the preparations for snap polls on 5 January.
In its ruling, the apex court had said Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament will be suspended until 7 December and it will consider all the petitions filed on the President’s decision next month before giving a final ruling.
After the court verdict, Speaker Jayasuriya summoned Parliament’s session for Wednesday morning.
Sirisena dissolved Parliament after it became clear that he lacked support from lawmakers to instal Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister following his sacking of Wickremesinghe as premier.
While sacking prime minister Wickremesinghe, president Sirisena had also suspended Parliament till 16 November. He, however, advanced the convening of the House to 14 November amid international and domestic pressure against the move.
Sirisena dissolved Parliament last week, almost 20 months before its term was to end, and ordered a snap election on 5 January, plunging the country into an unprecedented political and constitutional crises.
Rajapaksa needed the support of minimum 113 parliamentarians in the 225-member House to prove his majority.
Sirisena on Sunday stoutly defended his move to dissolve Parliament, saying it was taken to prevent clashes among rival lawmakers. He said there were reports that politicians would clash during the floor test, which was due on 14 November.
Rajapaksa, 72, who ruled Lanka for a nearly decades from 2005, was unexpectedly defeated by his deputy Sirisena in the presidential election held in January 2015 with the support from Wickremesinghe’s UNP.
However, the power-sharing arrangement between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe became increasingly tenuous on several policy matters, especially on issues like the economy and security. And subsequently, Sirisena abruptly ousted Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa.