Sri Lanka MPs hurl ‘chilli powder’ and chairs in fresh chaos (Original Title)
Legislators allied to disputed PM Rajapaksa fight with rivals in second day of clashes
A clash between rival members of the Sri Lankan parliament, in Colombo. Photograph: AFP/Getty
Sri Lanka’s parliament has been disrupted for a second day, with legislators allied to the disputed prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, hurling chairs at police officers and allegedly throwing chilli powder at opposing MPs.
It was the latest violent incident in the crisis that erupted three weeks ago, when the president, Maithripala Sirisena, suddenly announced he had sacked the prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and installed Rajapaksa in his place.
Despite the violence, the pro-Rajapaksa MPs failed to prevent the assembly from passing a no-confidence motion in his leadership, dismissing his government for the second time this week.
Unlike the previous vote, however, Friday’s motion omitted any reference to misconduct on the part of Sirisena. The change indicates the president could recognise the motion this time and agree to terminate Rajapaksa’s leadership.
Rajapaksa’s forces have already said they will reject Friday’s vote. “We say Mahinda Rajapaksa heads the government,” said Dinesh Gunawardena, a Rajapaksa ally. “We shall agitate for elections. The country is in anarchy. The parliament is in anarchy.”
Security was heavy in parliament on Friday after the previous day’s session had to be abandoned when MPs scuffled inside the chamber, requiring one to be hospitalised. One MP, Palitha Thewarapperuma of the United National party, was seen wielding a knife in Thursday’s fray.
Before the session could start, MPs allied to Rajapaksa surrounded the Speaker’s ceremonial chair, shouting protests at the use of knives in Thursday’s brawl.
From today’s chaotic hearing in Sri Lanka – police officers being treated for injuries after being attacked by MPs. Two other MPs reeling after chilli powder was throw in their faces. Extraordinary scenes @AmanthaP
As Rajapaksa watched from his chair, his MPs attacked the officers with chairs and books, injuring up to 11. Other legislators tipped the Speaker’s ceremonial chair to the floor and dragged it across the ground.
Taking refuge on a side bench and surrounded by officers, Jayasuriya, called for a voice vote on the no-confidence motion in Rajapaksa. A roar erupted across the chamber and the Speaker declared the vote carried by a majority.
Jayasuriya must now formally communicate the result to Sirisena, which he is expected to do later on Friday.
“They have behaved as beasts, not as human beings,” Herath told reporters outside the chamber.
He wore a large bandage across his forehead, saying he was injured when an opposing lawmaker lobbed a copy of the Sri Lankan constitution at his head.
If recognised by Sirisena, who ultimately commands the country’s armed forces and police, Friday’s no-confidence motion would leave the country without a prime minister.
According to the constitution, Sirisena will need to name a prime minister who he believes can command a majority of parliament’s vote. Wickremesinghe would have the numbers, but the acrimony between he and Sirisena – one of the key factors in sparking the crisis – makes it doubtful he would be chosen.
Also uncertain is how Rajapaksa and his supporters will respond to the result. He tweeted after the vote: “The Speaker’s ad-hoc decisions are the main reason for today’s situation in parliament. The need is to go for a election and lead the way to a stable parliament.”
“Today Sri Lankans have again seen deplorable behaviour by some MPs, unbecoming of them and of their noble institution,” the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, James Dauris, wrote on Twitter. “No parliament can perform its role when its own members stop it from doing so.”