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Sri Lanka court orders prime minister to refrain from duties

December 3, 2018

FILE- In this Nov. 3, 2018 file photo, Sri Lanka's then appointed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks to members loyal to him at his office in Colombo, Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan court has stayed disputed Prime Minister Rajapaksa and his ministers from holding their positions as it hears an appeal against them. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A Sri Lankan court on Monday ordered disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his ministers to refrain from carrying out their duties as it hears an appeal against them.

While the ruling by the Court of Appeal is an interim order, it is yet another setback for Rajapaksa, who has held on to the position of prime minister with President Maithripala Sirisena’s backing despite losing two no-confidence votes.

The parliamentary speaker announced that Rajapaksa’s government was dissolved after the passage of the no-confidence motions. Parliament has also passed resolutions to cut off funds to the offices of Rajapaksa and his ministers.

Still, Rajapaksa continued to function as prime minister, with Sirisena dismissing the no-confidence votes, saying proper procedures were not followed.

Rajapaksa said in a statement later Monday that he did not accept the interim order and would file an appeal early Tuesday with the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court.

Sri Lanka has been in political turmoil since Oct. 26, when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa in his place.

Sirisena insists he will not reappoint Wickremesinghe as prime minister even if Wickremesinghe has the support of a majority of lawmakers in Parliament.

Sagala Ratnayake, a lawmaker who supports Wickremesinghe, said Sirisena “is going to be up against the wall.”

“The people and the right-thinking political parties in the country are looking to the president to appoint Wickremesinghe as prime minister,” he said.

Some 122 lawmakers who are opposed to Rajapaksa in the 225-member Parliament have challenged Rajapaksa and his ministers’ right to hold office.

The Court of Appeal on Monday scheduled the next hearing in the case for Dec. 12, summoning Rajapaksa and his ministers to explain on what basis they continued to hold office after the no-confidence votes.

Sirisena had opposed Wickremesinghe’s economic policies and plans to conduct investigations against state military forces for alleged abuses during the country’s long civil war, which ended in 2009.

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