Lanka crisis takes new turn | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 10, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, November 10, 2018

Lanka crisis takes new turn

Main Tamil parties reject president's call to support new PM

Sri Lanka's main Tamil parties have turned down a call from President Maithripala Sirisena to support his newly appointed prime minister in a likely floor test in parliament this month, the parties said yesterday.

Sirisena triggered off a political crisis on the island by sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and appointing controversial opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to the job last month.

Wickremesinghe has challenged his ouster as unconstitutional and sought a session of parliament to determine who holds a majority.

Sirisena met the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to persuade the main minority group to drop its opposition to Rajapaksa who led the country to a crushing defeat of Tamil separatist guerrillas when he was president, but who is accused of human rights violations.

"President asked the TNA to abstain from voting, but we said the abstention would lead to legitimising an unconstitutional move," M A Sumanthiran, a TNA spokesman, told Reuters.

Buddhists make up about 70 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people and ethnic Tamils, most of whom are Hindus, about 13 percent. Muslims and other communities make up the rest.

Western nations led by the European Union are concerned that Sri Lanka's halting steps towards a national reconciliation and justice for the victims of the war crimes will be endangered by the return of Rajapaksa.

The EU said yesterday that the crisis had scarred the Indian Ocean island's international reputation.

Mano Ganeshan, the leader of another minority Tamil party, said the president had suggested three options at the meeting.

"The first, he said we can join the government accepting ministerial positions. If not, he asked us to remain neutral in the parliament. The third option was not to support Wickremesinghe saying that he and Ranil Wickremesinghe can't work," Ganeshan said.

President's party admitted for the first time yesterday that it does not have a majority to get its candidate through a parliamentary vote of confidence, reported AFP.

The house will sit on November 14. Political parties have accused each other of trying to engineers defections.

The uncertainty has already dented investor sentiment on currency, bond, and stock markets.

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