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Sri Lanka sets vote to settle prime minister controversy

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Sri Lanka lawmakers will vote between Mahinda Rajapaksa, pictured, and Ranil Wickremesinghe for the post of prime minister on Monday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Sri Lanka lawmakers will vote between Mahinda Rajapaksa, pictured, and Ranil Wickremesinghe for the post of prime minister on Monday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Democracy has given way to chaos in Sri Lanka, where the prime minister has refused to leave his official residence after he was sacked and replaced.

President Maithripala Sirisena replaced Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Friday amid concerns that he could be the target of an assassination plot.

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Sirisena suspended the government until Nov. 16 so the new prime minister, Mahinda Rajapakse, can take over.

Wickremesinghe, though, refuses to leave -- saying he has the support of most of parliament. He's also refused to leave the Temple Trees, the PM's official residence.

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"I am the prime minister," Wickremesinghe said. "According to the constitution, the person who commands the confidence of parliament is the prime minister. Sri Lanka at the moment has no government. No one knows what the legal situation is."

Thursday, Sirisena lifted the ban on parliament so lawmakers could schedule a vote to choose between Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa on Monday.

"The people's voices have been heard. Democracy will prevail," Wickremesinghe tweeted.

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Ajith Perera, who supports Wickremesinghe's UNP party, said they have the votes to stay in office.

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"We have 124 legislators with us. When parliament is convened, we will show our majority," he said.

Rajapaksa, though, said he has support from 130 of parliament's 225 members. Right now, he is working out of another mansion that houses the offices of the prime minister and has started hiring cabinet members. He's also advising lawmakers to rebuff the leader's attempt to stay in power.

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Wickremesinghe's legacy has been tarnished by a treasury bonds scandal that cost the government millions of dollars. He wasn't charged in the case, but it caused a financial crisis for Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa ruled Sri Lanka during a time of turbulence and war -- when he censored news media, lifted presidential term limits and cracked down on ethnic minorities. He lost to party colleague Sirisena in an election more than three years ago.

Sirisena and Wickremesinghe restored democracy to the island and approved constitutional amendments that revoked many of Rajapaksa's policies.

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