A worried India is keeping a close watch on Sri Lankan politics, following fresh reports of horsetrading and deal-making after President Maithripala Sirisena decided to convene Parliament on November 14, sidestepping appeal by sacked PM Ranil Wickremesinghe’s party for an early session.
United National Party of Wickremesinghe has alleged that Sirisena’s move would enable Mahinda Rajapaksa to indulge in horse-trading. Defections from UNP to the Rajapaksa-Sirisena camp over the past 10 days have been allegedly backed by China.
Earlier, it was expected that Parliament will meet on Monday, allowing Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa opportunities to prove their majorities on the floor of the House. The Parliament will now meet on November 14 at 10 am local time, according to an official gazette notification.
A worried New Delhi is playing a wait -and-watch game as stakes are high in the island nation, where Rajapaksa’s return could mean China regaining as much influence as enjoyed when he was the President for a decade.
The UNP organised a massive rally in Colombo on Monday to support an early Parliament session. The announcement by Sirisena on Sunday came amid mounting pressure to convene Parliament at the earliest. Sirisena had suspended parliamentary proceedings until November 16 after abruptly sacking Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replacing him with Rajapaksa.
Mangala Samaraweera, former foreign minister and a leader of Wickremesinghe’s UNP, condemned Sirisena’s decision to recall Parliament two days prior to the initial suspension order, saying it was “an eyewash to appease the ever increasing” international and local pressure.
At least eight legislators from the UNP and a member of an opposition party have now crossed over to the Sirisena and Rajapaksa-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), which had the backing of 96 legislators before the crisis.
Almost all politicians who left the UNP took up ministerial posts in the new cabinet. Gayantha Karunatilleke, a UNP member, said the date for Parliament recall was “too late”, and urged Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to defy the president and summon Parliament “in the next few days”.