Parliament dissolved to prevent unrest: Sri Lanka president

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena gestures as he speaks during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 23, 2017. Reuters

Colombo: Sri Lanka's president Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday defended his controversial sacking of parliament, saying the decision was taken to prevent violent clashes among rival legislators and horse-trading of MPs.

Sirisena in an address to the nation outlined his reasons for dissolving parliament well ahead of its scheduled closure. Sirisena's decision was criticised by some political parties and civil society groups as unconstitutional and illegal.

He said there were media reports that politicians would clash during a vote to decide between two men claiming the premiership.

On October 26, Sirisena abruptly sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, after three-and-a-half years of an estranged relationship with him.

The island nation plunged into a constitutional crisis following the move. Sirisena had suspended parliamentary proceedings until November 16. Later, owing to domestic and international pressure, he issued a notice to reconvene parliament on November 14.

However, on Friday, Sirisena dissolved parliament and announced snap polls on January 5 next year after it became evident that he did not have enough support in the House to prove the premiership of Rajapaksa.

"If I allowed the parliament to meet on November 14, there would have been violence in the House and it could have spread to our villagers and towns," Sirisena said.

"It was sad that parliamentarians were being traded for rupees 100 to 150 million," Sirisena said, referring to statements made by some of the parliamentarians that they were offered huge money to switch sides.

Sirisena also blamed parliamentary Speaker Karu Jayasuriya for the current political situation.

"The other reason for my dissolution of parliament was the behaviour of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. He issued statements saying that he would not recognise the appointment of a new prime minister using my presidential powers."

He said Jayasuriya's insistence of having a floor test on the very first day of the parliamentary session was unacceptable.