The looming political crisis in Sri Lanka, especially in parliament, has forced President Maithripala Sirisena to prorogue parliament till May 8.
A gazette notification issued by the President on Thursday said: “By virtue of the powers vested in me by Article 70 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, I, Maithripala Sirisena, President, do by this Proclamation, prorogue Parliament with effect from the midnight of the Twelfth day of April, Two Thousand Eighteen, and fix the Eighth day of May, Two Thousand Eighteen, as the date for commencement of the next session of Parliament.”
The prorogation came as a surprise, as only hours earlier, the President had sworn-in four cabinet ministers to partially fill vacancies created by the defection of 15 ministers, both senior and junior, to the opposition.
One of the rebels, junior Minister Dilan Perera, said that the President apparently needed time to sort out many matters agitating members of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the coalition government he is running with the United National Party (UNP) headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
16 MPs of the ruling SLFP defected to the opposition and these included six cabinet ministers besides State and Deputy Ministers.
They said that they could not work with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as they were odds with his right wing and pro-West ideology and style of functioning.
They had voted for the No Confidence Movement (NCM) against Wickremesinghe moved by the Joint Opposition (JO) led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Having voted against their own Prime Minister they said they could not be part of the government And since the differences with Wickremesinghe were deep, they decided to sit in the opposition.
The rebels had been campaigning for the removal of Wickremesinghe for long, but in vain.
As Dilan Perera said, the rebels were willing to work with anyone from the UNP other than Wickremesinghe. But President and SLFP chief Sirisena, under the influence of some forces, had decided to go along with Wickremesinghe.
However, the rebels have not abandoned President Sirisena and have promised to support him from outside. They also vowed not to join the Joint Opposition led by his rival Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“If only the UNP had removed Wickremesinghe and put up somebody else, the coalition government would have sailed smoothly and it would have enjoyed two thirds majority in parliament. But certain forces scuttled that prospect by insisting that Wickremesinghe must remain,” Dilan Perera said.
President Sirisena now has a hard task ahead of him. He has to keep his flock together. The 25 MPs who are still with him also want Wickremesinghe out and had abstained from voting on the No Trust Motion. They could shift loyalties at any time.
As the head of a weak party, the President will have a hard time controlling Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and the UNP, who have emerged stronger from the crisis triggered by the No Confidence Motion.
Thus the Lankan government’s stability appears to be under threat.