Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

State media: Sri Lanka president dissolves Parliament

State media: Sri Lanka president dissolves Parliament

New elections are likely to be held in early January, almost two years earlier than originally planned, a government minister told the AFP news agency.

Deepening the political crisis he created two weeks ago, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena in an extraordinary Gazette notification announced the dissolution of the parliament with effect from Midnight Friday and scheduled general elections to be held on 5th January 2019. The report said the notification has been sent to the government printer.

Tensions had been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister.

The former Prime Minister-led United National Party (UNP) says the dissolution of Parliament by the President Maithripala Sirisena today almost two years before its term expires is illegal and against the constitution.

President Sirisena has failed to persuade the parliament to support his ouster of his one-time ally Wickramasinghe.

"It's totally unconstitutional", said Harsha de Silva, a member of Wickremesinghe's United National Party and a former minister.

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"This dissolution by the President is illegal and goes against the constitution", the UNP said on Twitter.

"We fear that recent actions, if not corrected, will threaten your country's democratic development and derail the progress made in recent years", the three lawmakers said in a letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Relations between Wickremesinghe and Sirisena became strained this year after their coalition was defeated in local elections by a Rajapaksa-backed party.

Dayasiri Jayasekara, a cabinet minister, told Al Jazeera that Sirisena had no choice but to dissolve parliament because of Wickremesinghe's refusal to step down. 96 MPs had supported the party before the crisis.

Wickremesinghe insists he holds a majority in parliament and has refused to vacate his position while Rajapaksa - a former strongman who ruled as president between 2005 and 2015 - enjoys widespread support for ending the country's brutal 26-year civil war.

The leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya Udaya Gammanpila earlier in the day said the President can exercise power vested with him under article 33 (2) c of the constitution to dissolve the Parliament. "This is what the people also want", he told the news portal. Several legislators have said they were offered millions of dollars to switch allegiance and at least eight have already jumped to the president's side.

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