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Lawmakers fight in Sri Lanka's parliament amid a political crisis
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/T. Basnayaka

Sri Lankan lawmakers fight amid PM dispute

November 16, 2018

Sri Lankan lawmakers have thrown punches and objects in parliament on a second day after a political crisis left the country without a government. The parliamentary speaker needed a police escort to enter the chamber.


Violence broke out in Sri Lanka's parliament on Friday for a second time, with tensions running high over the country's ongoing political crisis.

Parliamentary speaker Karu Jayasuriya was escorted to his place in the chamber by police after initially being blocked for almost an hour by a group of legislators.

Jaysuriya was then pelted with books and stationery, while MPs broke furniture and attacked officers. Some were also seen throwing chili powder at rival parliamentarians. 

Jayasuriya adjourned the house until Monday.

'Bad day for democracy'

The violence came shortly after lawmakers in the country's 225-member house reconvened following Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month.

On Thursday, rival MPs threw punches, water bottles and trash cans at each other over a resolution against the newly appointed replacement prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Lawmakers grabbed at the speaker's microphone, shortly after he declared that the country had no government and that there was no prime minister, as Rajapaksa lost a parliamentary vote of confidence the day before.

Germany's ambassador to Sri Lanka, Jörn Rohde, called the fight a "bad day for democracy in Sri Lanka." In a post on Twitter, he criticized lawmakers for "throwing objects at the speaker and preventing votes."

Later on Thursday, thousands of people rallied in the country's capital Colombo to protest against Wickremesinghe's ouster — burning coffins to represent what they view as the death of democracy in the Indian Ocean nation.

What is the crisis about?

The crisis was started when President Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe on October 26 and named Rajapaksa — who was Sri Lanka's president from 2005 to 2015 — as his successor.

Wickramasinghe disputes the president's authority to fire him and has refused to leave the prime ministerial residence.

On Wednesday, lawmakers rejected Rajapaksa in a no-confidence vote — a move he criticized on Thursday in parliament.

Both he and Sirisena have called for new elections to resolve the issue. The country's Supreme Court suspended the order for fresh elections as well as Sirisena's dismissal of parliament earlier this week.

Following the brawl on Thursday, Sirisena held talks with parties that comprise a majority in parliament in an effort to defuse tensions.

There was reportedly no breakthrough in the deadlock over the crisis, although the parties agreed not to escalate tensions.

tj,rs/bw (AP, AFP)

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