Sacked PM Sri Lanka looks for work after the parliamentary uprising
President Karu Jayasuriya was able to take his place only after joining the assembly, surrounded by police officers and parliamentary staff
The political crisis in Sri Lanka intensified on Friday with the fired prime minister who asked to resume his job shortly after passing another motion of no confidence against his controversial successor amid unprecedented uprisings in parliament.
The Indian Ocean nation has been paralyzed since October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena fired Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse.
With a second vote of no confidence against Rajapakse Friday despite the raucous scenes that involved its supporters who were throwing chilli powder against their opponents, Wickremeshe called for the restoration of the status quo before October 26th.
"Let the status quo return," Wickremesing told Colombo's foreign correspondents at his Temple Trees residence, where he remained holed up after refusing to accept his dismissal three weeks ago. "The country needs stability, this is the main problem".
He said he was also ready to work with Sirisena despite their harsh personality clash that triggered the unprecedented constitutional crisis last month. There were no immediate comments from Sirisena.
On Friday the orator Karu Jayasuriya was blocked from taking his chair for almost one hour from a group of lawmakers who support Rajapakse.
In the end, Jayasuriya entered the room with the red carpet protected by dozens of unarmed officers and parliamentary staff.
The revolting parliamentarians took away the decorated ceremony chair, but the staff was transported to a normal office chair as an impromptu substitute.
However, the rioters also grabbed that chair, breaking it into pieces that were then used as bullets to attack rivals and the police.
A former member of parliament said that the scenes on Friday have never been seen before.
"We did not have a situation where the speaker was prevented from entering the room," former sergeant Wijaya Palliyaguruge told AFP. "This is also the first time that the speaker had to intervene with police protection".
The British High Commissioner (Ambassador) James Dauris echoed the international concern about the violence in the Sri Lankan Parliament, a legacy of British colonial rule that ended in 1948.
"The inhabitants of Sri Lanka have once again seen deplorable behavior by some parliamentarians, unbecoming of them and their noble institution," Dauris said on Twitter. "No parliament can play its role when its own members prevent it from doing so".
– No confidence –
Standing in the corner with a human shield of policemen dressed in khaki, the orator, with his usual black and golden robes, used a wireless microphone to take a vowel vote on a movement of confidence revised against Rajapakse.
Rajapakse lost a similar vote on Wednesday but refused to resign by saying that the vote was not properly taken. His party had admitted that they did not command a majority in the 225-member assembly despite attempts to engineer the defections.
President Sirisena, who has the power to appoint a new prime minister, told political parties representing the majority of Thursday night's legislators to present a modified motion to confirm the overthrow of Rajapakse.
On Thursday, the deputies moved another resolution against Rajapakse, this time to reject his request for early elections. That vote could not go on after the parliament fell into chaos, while fists and bullets flew.
Rajapakse himself stayed away from the disturbances and left the room after the non-trust motion was passed against him.
A loyalist from Rajapakse was seen throwing chilli powder to lawmakers and rival police. At least 11 officers and several legislators were taken to the Parliament's medical center for first aid.
Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, a lawmaker at the Wickremesinghe festival, said it was among those treated after the chili mixed with water was thrown onto his face.
Left-wing MP Vijitha Herath said he suffered a forehead injury when a rival struck him with a stiff copy of the constitution that was on the speaker's table.
"I was also attacked with chilli water," said Herath. "Chili pepper powder or water is usually the favorite weapon of bank robbers and gangsters."
Another legislator Anura Kumara Dissanayake said he saw a Rajapakse supporter assault a parliamentary employee guarding the speaker's room.
Rajapakse's spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, denied attacking the police or staff, but he accused the speaker of chaos.
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