Supporters of Sri Lankan Prime Miniser Ranil Wickremesinghe took to the streets of Colombo on Tuesday to protest against his unceremonious ouster, Reuters reported, even as he urged the government to “summon parliament and restore democracy”.
Thousands of protestors and workers of his United National Party organised marches and gathered near his home in the southern part of the capital, with signs urging President Maithripala Sirisena to “protect our democracy”.
“The attempted coup is not a threat to a single person or political party,” said Wickremesinghe in a speech on Tuesday. “It is an attack on the very foundations of our nation – law, order, democracy, the constitution – and therefore a threat to every Sri Lankan.”
Sirisena on Friday appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa the prime minister after sacking Wickremesinghe, and suspended parliament till November 16. Two days later, Rajapaksa assumed charge at the prime minister’s secretariat and called for snap parliamentary elections to overcome the “economic and political crisis”.
Former minister Champika Ranawaka called upon all sections of the society to gather and protest against Wickremesinghe’s ouster, PTI reported. Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said, “This was a constitutional coup and it is our duty to protect democracy and sovereignty of people.”
Deepanjalie Abeywardene, one of the protestors, described the president’s move as a “coup”. “It has all the characteristics of a coup,” she said, holding a sign which read “reconvene the parliament”.
Wickremesinghe has vowed to remain prime minister and has asked the speaker to allow him to prove his party’s majority. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has urged Sirisena to let Wickremesinghe prove his majority support in parliament and continues to recognise him as the prime minister. He has called for a meeting of all party leaders to assess the situation after 128 members wrote to him calling for the parliament to be reconvened.
Jayasuriya has insisted that the issue needs to be settled within parliament.
But Rajapaksa’s supporters are confident that members from Wickremesinghe’s United National Party would defect and shore up their numbers in parliament. “We are waiting for more UNP members to join us,” said Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, a Rajapaksa loyalist. “We have the numbers.”
Wickeremesinghe’s efforts to prove a majority suffered after four UNP lawmakers, who had publicly pledged alliance to him, accepted ministerial positions in the new government. Former minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said, “We have the majority despite four of them joining Rajapaksa.”