UN chief urges Srisena to allow parliament to vote
Sri Lanka's sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned time is running out to avert a "bloodbath" while voicing hope that parliament will resolve a damaging constitutional crisis in the coming days.
The 69-year-old was sacked out-of-the-blue on October 26 by President Maithripala Sirisena, with domineering former president Mahinda Rajapakse named in his place.
Sirisena also suspended parliament in an apparent bid to prevent opposition to his move, deepening the turmoil that has seen at least one man killed in a shooting last weekend linked to the power struggle.
"We will be calling on our people not to resort to violence," Wickremesinghe said late Friday. "But you don't know what arises in a situation like this.
"A few desperate people can start off a bloodbath."
His warning came as attempts to win over MP defectors intensified.
Rajapakse has eaten into Wickremesinghe's majority amid warnings from pro-democracy and anti-corruption groups about the tactics being used.
A member of Wickremesinghe's United National Party, SB Nawinna, became the latest to defect and was rewarded with the cultural affairs portfolio in Rajapakse's government.
According to latest counts, Wickremesinghe has 103 MPs while Rajapakse and Sirisena together have 100. Most of the 22 remaining MPs, including the TNA, are likely to oppose Rajapakse, observers said.
Huge amounts are reportedly being offered to defectors.
A UNP stalwart, Range Bandara, said this week he was offered $2.8 million to cross over and support Rajapakse.
The minority Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) party, which has seven lawmakers, said its members had also rejected offers to join the Sirisena-Rajapakse camp.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called Sri Lanka's president and urged him to allow parliament to vote on the appointment of a prime minister to end a political crisis.
Guterres offered United Nations help to broker a dialogue between all the parties.
Sri Lanka's speaker has summoned parliament to meet next week in defiance of the president who has suspended the assembly until November 16.
The United States has also called on the president to reconvene parliament.