Sri Lanka political crisis deepens, president calls for snap polls on January 5

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, in a late-night decision on Friday, dissolved the Parliament, pushing for early general elections in the country. The island nation will now face snap elections on January 5 and the new Parliament will meet on January 17, according to a notification.

This comes as the latest move in the political crisis that Sri Lanka has slipped into ever since Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked and replaced by Mahinda Rajapaksa last month.

The streets of Colombo wore a deserted look in the late hours of Friday. Only a few supporters from both sides of the political sphere came out of their houses to extend support to their respective leaders.

Early on Friday evening, the Department of Printing was taken over by the Ministry of Defence where the Gazette notification was printed. The MoD falls directly under President Sirisena.

The news spread about the printing press having been taken over and both the department and the state media network were put on stand-by by the presidential secretariat.

The decision was confirmed through sources around 9 pm which led to many Sirisena supporters and ministers who were sworn-in, to gather at the Department of Printing. Firecrackers were burst outside with people welcoming the announcement of fresh elections.

Vijaya, one of the supporters there, said, “This is great news. We welcome the decision because we were tired of the policies of Ranil. We want him to go.”

On the other hand, Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, where Ranil Wickremesinghe still resides witnessed a sit-in protest in the main auditorium with many of the United National Party (UNP) leaders coming in addressing the supporters, including the Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake who called the decision an “act of cowardice”.

“They were afraid of the no-confidence motion because they didn’t have the numbers that is the only reason why the President dissolved the parliament. In a way it is a victory for us. Now, we will go to the Election Commission and the court to seek redressal,” she said.

Other supporters sat there through the night and sang songs to keep the enthusiasm and energy of the group alive. While it started with a larger number, slowly the crowds started dissipating, barring the ardent supporters who sang and danced in support of the ousted Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa till the wee hours of Saturday.

One of them called it a celebration of “death of democracy”. Another young man Kasun said, “This was absolutely undemocratic and we will continue with this sit-in protest to condemn the acts of the President.”

While supporters from both sides partook in the aftermath of the announcement, constitutional experts have questioned why was the 19th Amendment brought about to curtail such extraordinary powers of the President if at the end of the day the current dispensation would look at loopholes to violate the spirit of the very same amendment and the Constitution.

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