Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Sunday accused President Maithripala Sirisena of “usurping” the rights of legislators and advised them against following “illegal orders”, AFP reported.

On Friday, Sirisena dissolved Parliament again and announced snap elections on January 5, hours after his United People’s Freedom Alliance party admitted that it does not have the numbers to enable Rajapaksa to win a confidence vote.

Jayasuriya played down accusations that his “improper conduct” led to the dissolution of the Parliament. “I have watched over the last two weeks as the executive branch has seized the rights and usurped the powers of members of parliament who were elected to represent the people,” Jayasuriya said. “I call upon all public servants to refuse to execute any illegal orders they may receive, no matter from whom.”

The speaker said it is the Supreme Court’s prerogative to determine the legality of Sirisena’s actions.

House Leader Dinesh Gunawardane, on Saturday, had warned Jayasuriya against “taking a partisan stand” on the matter, the Daily Mirror reported.

The development comes at a time when the nation is embroiled in political turmoil. On October 26, Sirisena appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa the prime minister after sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose party held a majority in the Parliament. The next day, Sirisena suspended Parliament till November 16 to prevent a vote. Though he later lifted the suspension of Parliament and said it would reconvene on November 14, he dissolved it to call for polls.

PM Rajapaksa switches parties after 50 years

On Sunday, Rajapaksa quit the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to join the newly formed Sri Lanka People’s Party, the Daily Mirror reported. Rajapaksa was a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, co-founded by his father Don Alwin Rajapaksa in 1951, for five decades.

The development indicates that Rajapaksa will contest the snap polls under the newly formed party’s banner and not the United People’s Freedom Alliance party.

Wickremesinghe’s United National Party on Saturday said it would move court against Sirisena’s decision.

The prime minister’s son Namal Rajapaksa also joined the Sri Lanka People’s Party. “We will strive to create a broader coalition with many stakeholders under the leadership of Sirisena Maithripala and Mahinda Rajapaksa to face the upcoming General Election and come out victorious,” Namal Rajapaksa tweeted.

Rajapaksa was in power from 2005 to 2015, when he was defeated by Sirisena who allied with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party. In 2017, Rajapaksa’s supporters had formed the Sri Lanka People’s Party to create a platform to enable his re-entry into politics.