TNA MPs challenge speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s decision
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was on Tuesday named the Leader of Opposition in the Sri Lankan Parliament, amid pending questions about his eligibility to hold the position.
The announcement came as a reaffirmation of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s earlier position acknowledging Mr. Rajapaksa as Opposition leader, which MPs of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and some other parties had challenged on two grounds. Intervening in Parliament sessions mid-December, legislators of the TNA — whose leader R. Sampanthan had held the post since 2015 — asked how Mr. Rajapaksa, staking his claim for the Opposition Leader’s post from the President Maithripala Sirisena-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), could do so after becoming a member of a new party formed by his supporters.Further, given that Mr. Sirisena, who leads the UPFA, holds three portfolios in the “new Cabinet” installed recently, how could his party also sit in Opposition at the same time, they asked. Mr. Jayasuriya, who had promised to respond to the specific objections, is yet to explain the rationale for his decision that was conveyed to Parliament on Tuesday.
In a widely-criticised move on October 26, President Sirisena appointed Mr. Rajapaksa in place of incumbent PM Ranil Wickremesinghe. Amid mounting domestic and international concern, and setbacks from the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal that ruled against his actions, President Sirisena restored Mr. Wickremesinghe in the office. Soon after, Mr. Rajapaksa demanded that he be made Leader of Opposition, claiming he had the highest number of “MPs in Opposition”.