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Sri Lanka court blocks appointed prime minister from taking office

By
Clyde Hughes
Former Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa was barred by a judge Monday from taking over the prime minister's office. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Former Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa was barred by a judge Monday from taking over the prime minister's office. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- A Sri Lanka court barred former President Mahinda Rajapaksa Monday from taking over as prime minister after he rebuffed calls to step down following two votes of no confidence by lawmakers.

Twice last month, 122 Sri Lankan legislators voted to remove Rajapaksa from the prime minister position, charging that his appointment was unconstitutional. In the votes, 103 legislators voted in favor of Rajapaksa.

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Monday, appellate judge Preethipadhman Surasena issued the stay, laying groundwork for a full hearing by the court on Dec. 12 to decide the matter. Surasena said "irreversible damage could be caused" if Rajapaksa and his cabinet took office before the hearing, Al Jazeera reported.

Rajapaksa was appointed prime minister in October by President Maithripala Sirisena to replace Ranil Wickremesinghe, but he was rejected by legislators. When Sirisena tried to dissolve the assembly in retaliation, it was temporarily blocked by the country's supreme court.

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The justices are expected to make a final decision on that move on Friday.

"I am addressing you as the prime minister of Sri Lanka," Wickremesinghe said in October during a public hearing after his removal. "I still hold the majority of the house. Convene parliament and I will prove it."

Wickremesinghe still claims the prime minister's office and said most lawmakers support him, the Times of India reported. Sirisena had complained about sharp political differences with Wickremesinghe.

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"The fake prime minister and his purported government have been thrown out of office by the judiciary," Sagala Ratnayake, a member of Wickremesinghe's United National Party, said. "The Court of Appeal has protected parliamentary democracy from an illegal government."

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