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International concerns on Lanka elections unfounded: Minister

The concerns raised by the international community on the legality of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dissolving parliament and announcing snap polls in January are unfounded, a senior minister said on Sunday.

The political crisis in the island nation deepened on Friday as Sirisena dissolved parliament and announced snap polls on January 5 after it became evident that he did not have enough support in the House for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed by him under controversial circumstances.

“It was a decision made after obtaining legal advice and opinion even from former chief justices…We have let the people to decide, so there is nothing wrong in it,” Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said.

The concerns raised by the international community on the legality of the President’s move are unfounded, the Sirisena loyalist said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres, the European Union and several countries, including the US, the UK, Australia and Norway, have expressed concern over Sirisena’s move to dissolve the parliament, which was to reconvene on November 14.

Sri Lanka is facing a major constitutional crisis after Sirisena ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa on October 26 and suspended parliament.

Sirisena had earlier claimed at a public rally that he has the support of 113 parliamentarians in the 225-member House to prove the premiership of Rajapaksa.

His comments came after Speaker Karu Jayasuriya slammed Sirisena’s “unconstitutional and undemocratic” actions to sack Wickremesinghe and suspend Parliament, saying he will not recognise Rajapaksa as the new premier unless he wins a floor test.

With eight United National Party (UNP) and one Tamil National Alliance (TNA) legislators defecting to the Rajapaksa camp, the former president was hopeful of passing the floor test.

Sirisena had earlier suspended parliamentary proceedings until November 16. However, owing to domestic and international pressure, he later issued a notice to reconvene parliament on November 14.

The parliament would now convene on January 17 after the snap polls.

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