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Ousted Sri Lankan PM’s party to challenge dissolution of parliament in court

Ousted Sri Lankan PM’s party to challenge dissolution of parliament in court”

Sri Lanka's president has dissolved Parliament and called for elections on January 5 in a bid to stave off a deepening political crisis over his dismissal of the prime minister that opponents say is unconstitutional.

New elections are likely to be held in early January, almost two years earlier than originally planned, a government minister told the AFP news agency.

Referring to remarks by Sirisena loyalist Sarath Amunugama, Jayasuriya said, "I lament that the purported foreign minister, a highly regarded politician, has falsely alleged that I meant to prevent the president from delivering the statement of government policy when parliament was set to reconvene on November 14".

Sri Lanka has been in a political crisis since October 26, when Sirisena fired his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Both men say they command a majority in Parliament and had been expected to face the 225-member house this coming Wednesday.

But Wickremesinghe has refused to back down, and the move to dissolve parliament came hours after Sirisena's party acknowledged that Rajapaksa was eight MPs short of a majority needed to end the power struggle.

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Dayasiri Jayasekara, a cabinet minister, has expressed his support for Sirisena's decision to dissolve the legislature.

Political parties representing a majority of members in the 225-member parliament closed ranks to denounce the Friday night dissolution as illegal and unconstitutional.

Given those views, it was not immediately clear how Sirisena is on legal safe ground by dissolving parliament, though his legal experts have said there are provisions for him to do so.

Sri Lanka's largest party announced Saturday a legal challenge to President Maithripala Sirisena's sacking of parliament, a move that has plunged the Indian Ocean island nation into fresh turmoil and alarmed the global community.

The leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya Udaya Gammanpila earlier in the day said the President can exercise power vested with him under article 33 (2) c of the constitution to dissolve the Parliament.

Under global pressure Sirisena had agreed three times to lift the suspension but changed his mind each time. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

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The United National Party (UNP), which holds the most seats in parliament, said the president had "kicked the constitution in the teeth" with his latest move.

Rajapaksa on Sunday joined the Sri Lanka People's Front, a party of which he was shadow leader for months.

Rajapaksa was hoping to return to helm of affairs in Colombo ahead of Presidential and Parliamentary polls and introduce populist policies.

The party said in a Twitter message that it would meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of Sirisena's move.

The move drew strong worldwide condemnation for deepening a constitutional crisis and stalled about $2 billion worth of projects and grants.

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