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Sri Lankan court bars PM, cabinet from holding office

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – A court in Sri Lanka has issued an order temporarily barring Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa from holding office.

Judge Arjuna Obeyesekere issued the order on Monday, saying “irreparable damage would be caused” if Rajapaksa and his cabinet continued to hold office.

He ordered Rajapaksa and his cabinet to appear in the Court of Appeal on December 12 and to explain on what authority they held office after parliament voted against them twice last month.

In the meantime, the prime minister and his cabinet are prohibited from conducting government work.

The judge argued that although the decision would leave the country without a government, allowing a “set of persons who are not entitled in law to function as the prime minister or the cabinet of ministers or any other minister of government” would cause “irreparable or irredeemable” damage to the country.

The order reinforces two parliamentary votes to oust Rajapaksa and reinstall sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who holds a majority in parliament.

Rajapaksa, however, said in a statement that he did not agree with the ruling and would appeal the decision at the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning.

A power struggle, which has thrown the island nation into political crisis, was triggered in late October, when President Maithripala Sirisena suddenly dismissed Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa as the new premier.

The decision drew objections from lawmakers. The president then dissolved the parliament as well.

Wickremesinghe, who heads the United National Party (UNP) and deems his ouster illegal, has so far refused to leave his official residence, which is being guarded by hundreds of his supporters.

Late on Monday, President Sirisena ruled out re-appointing Wickremesinghe to the post, saying he would not do so “even if all 225 MPs sign a petition.”

He made the remarks in a meeting with the UNP legislators, on whom he called to name another nominee for prime minister “within 24 hours,” according to a politician who was present at the meeting.

The party, which has the backing of more than 100 politicians in parliament, has previously refused to do so.

The president said earlier on Monday that he would take “necessary action within the next 24 hours,” according to leaders of the Tamil National Alliance, a coalition representing the ethnic Tamil minority.

The Supreme Court is set to begin hearing on Tuesday a petition on whether the president’s decision to dissolve the parliament was constitutional.

According to some parliamentary sources, Sirisena was looking for a “dignified exit” by withdrawing the dissolution order as the court was unlikely to rule in his favor.

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