COLOMBO: Supporters of Sri Lanka’s fired prime minister and a top election official on Monday challenged in court the president’s sacking of parliament, upping the ante in a political crisis that has sparked international alarm.
President Maithripala Sirisena late Friday called snap elections and dissolved the legislature, two weeks after sacking the prime minister and installing the divisive Mahinda Rajapakse in his place.
The United States has led a chorus of international concern over events in the strategically important Indian Ocean island nation of 21 million people.Three political parties holding an absolute majority in parliament and Ratnajeevan Hoole, an election commissioner and one of three officials tasked with conducting polls, on Monday asked the Supreme Court to declare the president’s actions illegal. The court, which heard preliminary submissions, has adjourned until Tuesday.
In the five-page petition, Hoole said Sirisena broke the law in calling the snap elections for January 5 after a string of unconstitutional moves since October 26 when he fired Ranil Wickremesinghe, the prime minister.
Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), the main opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the leftist JVP, or People’s Liberation Front challenged Sirisena’s action in the court.
TNA spokesman M A Sumanthiran said the Supreme Court agreed to take up the petitions immediately considering the importance of the issue. “We are also asking for an interim order” for an injunction against preparations for the election, which would be two years ahead of schedule, Sumanthiran said.
Several petitioners also asked that parliament be restored until the court has ruled on their plea. Court officials said Chief Justice Nalin Perera and two other judges decided to fast-track the hearings.
Sarath Amunugama, appointed foreign minister by Sirisena, told Colombo-based diplomats Monday that he expected a verdict within five days. Legal experts say the dissolved parliament would have to be restored if the Supreme Court holds with the petitioners. If not, the January 5 election will have to go ahead.