Hundreds of protesters gathered in Colombo on Tuesday at a mass rally organised by ousted Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s party against what it said was a “coup” by President Maithripala Sirisena, amid efforts by opposing sides to secure their numbers in Parliament to end the country’s political crisis.
Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) demanded that Parliament be convened immediately and democracy restored.
Wickremesinghe said that President Maithripala Sirisena had assumed he would get his way.
However, he said the UNP and its partners in the United National Front will not give up and will continue to push for Parliament to convene immediately.
Sirisena is under increasing political and diplomatic pressure to reconvene Parliament and resolve the Constitutional crisis.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya urged the president to let Wickremesinghe prove his majority support on the Parliament floor.
The supporters of Rajapaksa, a former president, are confident that he would be able to prove majority support in Parliament as they are sure that members of Wickremesinghe’s UNP would defect.
“We are waiting for more UNP members to join us. We have the numbers,” Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, a Rajapaksa loyalist, said.
Wickremesinghe has said that he still commands a majority. However, he suffered a setback after four lawmakers from his party, who had pledged allegiance to him in public, took a U-turn and accepted ministerial positions in the Rajapaksa government.
“We have the majority despite four of them joining Rajapaksa,” Ranjith Madduma Bandara, an ex-minister, said.
Speaker Jayasuriya has called for a meeting of all party leaders to assess the current political situation. At least 128 members had written to him calling for reconvening of Parliament.
Jayasuriya has insisted that the issue needs to be settled within Parliament.
Both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa are working to secure their numbers in the Parliament.
The leaders of the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA), met Rajapaksa on Tuesday morning to discuss the current political situation.
TNA sources said that R Sampanthan, who is also the leader of the main Opposition, was asked by Rajapaska to stay neutral in case of a floor test.
Wickremesinghe argues he cannot legally be dismissed until he loses the support of Parliament. His party was prevented from holding a vote when Sirisena abruptly suspended Parliament on Saturday until November 16.
Wickremesinghe claimed on social media that he had obtained the signatures of 126 MPs calling for Parliament to be reconvened immediately to end the political standoff.