Sri Lanka’s parliament passed a no-confidence motion against newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, presenting a standoff with the opposition and throwing the country deeper into turmoil.
Deputies from Rajapaksa’s party rejected the voice vote as illegal on Wednesday, saying it wasn’t scheduled and that the pro-China former strongman would remain in office.
President Maithripala Sirisena, who triggered the crisis by firing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and naming Rajapaksa to the job last month, said in a letter to the speaker he appeared to have ignored the constitution, parliament procedure and traditions on how no confidence votes were held.
It was not immediately clear if president would accept the sacking of Rajapaksa by the parliament vote and appoint a new prime minister.
Government officials said there was confusion about who was in charge.
“We need cabinet approvals to go ahead with large value projects,” one told Reuters. “We don’t know if a cabinet exists or not.”
Sirisena dissolved parliament last week and ordered elections as a way to break the deadlock but the Supreme Court ordered a suspension of that decree on Tuesday until it had heard petitions challenging the decree as unconstitutional.
Wickremesinghe, who had refused to vacate the prime minister’s residence, said he intended to discharge his official responsibilities now that he had proved his majority in parliament.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the no-confidence vote against Rajapaksa was supported by 122 members of the 225-member house.
“A majority voted in favour of the no-confidence motion and thus the no-confidence motion was passed,” Jayasuriya said in a statement.
But Rajapaksa’s son Namal, who is also an MP, said the vote had not been put on the day’s business and hence was not valid. Father and son left the chamber before the vote was taken and their supporters shouted slogans in support.
The instability in the island nation of 21 million people has raised concerns for its tourism-dependent economy, already expanding at its slowest pace in more than a decade.
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