Sri Lankan president suspends parliament amid escalating power struggle


The move came after the government promised a cabinet reshuffle after a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was defeated last week.

President Maithripala Sirisena is due to assign the portfolios of rebels within his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) faction to other ministers of the same party at a ceremony later Thursday, official sources said.

Six ministers of Sirisena-led unity government resigned on Thursday, days after they voted in favour of a no-confidence motion against Wickremesinghe.

The other ministers who have resigned include Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara, Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare S B Dissanayake, Labour Minister John Seneviratne, Minister of Science, Technology and Research Susil Premajayantha and Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training Chandima Weerakkody.

"I Maitripala Sirisena, ... suspend the work of Parliament from midnight on 12 April 2018 and appoint the date of commencement of the next session of the Parliament on 8 may 2018", - stated in the message.

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"We will now act as SLFP members, we will not be joining the JO". However, pressure from the UNP legislators had forced the president to change course and ask them to step down as Sirisena's own position in the government was becoming tenuous.

The SLFP is to decide later this month if it will remain in government.

The country had plunged into a political crisis after the unity governments parties lost the local council elections to Rajapaksas Sri Lanka Peoples Front in February. Later, Sirisena himself is reported to have supported the NCM against Wickremesinghe.

Former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa's party trounced the UNP and SLFP to win control of two-thirds of the 340 local councils at stake.In the run-up to the election, Sirisena branded the prime minister and his party as more corrupt than the Rajapaksa regime, which Sirisena and Wickremesinghe jointly toppled in 2015.