World

Chaotic Sri Lankan parliamentary sittings

By AAP Newswire

Sri Lanka's parliament has passed another no-confidence motion in newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa amidst chaotic scenes and police protection for the speaker.

Members of parliament supporting Rajapaksa threw books, water bottles and other objects at Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Friday as more than 30 policemen and parliamentary staff shielded him, live television coverage of the sittings showed.

The speaker called on lawmakers to vote by raising their hands.

Operating from a make-shift seat, Jayasuriya declared that the no-confidence motion had passed as he observed that the majority of the members were in favour of the motion.

Rajapaksa's MPs dismantled the speaker's chair and also threw chilli powder at a rival MP from the United National Party (UNP).

"This is disgraceful, which shames the whole nation, and should be condemned," ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told journalists.

Before the speaker entered the chamber, members of Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) launched a protest by occupying the speaker's chair, thereby preventing the start of business in parliament.

The protest came as Wickremesinghe's UNP and its supporting parties were planning to reintroduce a no-confidence motion in Rajapaksa, claiming he did not have a majority in parliament.

"We are against the manner in which they are trying to rush through a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Rajapaksa," UPFA Member of Parliament Keheliya Rambukwella told journalists.

Wickremesinghe's party and its supporting parties wanted to show they have a majority of more than 113 members in the 225-seat parliament by passing the no-confidence motion.

Sittings were also disrupted on Thursday when attempts were made to prove Wickremesinghe's majority.

Both the UPFA and UNP members exchanged blows, threw objects including water bottles and waste-paper baskets at the speaker, forcing the session to be called off.

On Wednesday, the speaker reconvened parliament after the country's top court suspended a presidential order dissolving the body and calling fresh elections for January 5.

The no-confidence motion in Rajapaksa was first introduced on Wednesday, and the speaker accepted that it was passed as members showed their vote by raising their hands, as an attempt to have a roll-call vote failed.

Sri Lanka's political turmoil has continued since President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26 removed Wickremesinghe and appointed former president Rajapaksa to the post.

Sirisena was elected president in 2015, largely due to the support of Wickremesinghe after he broke away from Rajapaksa's party. He then formed a coalition government with the UNP.

But, in recent months he fell out with Wickremesinghe, claiming his party was plotting to assassinate him amid policy differences.