11/02/2018, 18.14
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lankan bishops call on president to end political crisis

by Melani Manel Perera

Under international pressure, President Sirisena will reconvene Parliament on 7 November. MPs will face two prime ministers. Civil society groups collect 16,000 signatures in a petition in favour of the sacked prime minister. For many, Sirisena broke his election promises.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan political parties "should set aside their interests and resolve the ongoing conflict whilst respecting the rules of the Constitution,” said Sri Lanka’s Catholic bishops in response to the political crisis that has gripped the country for the past week.

Meanwhile, under international pressure, President Maithripala Sirisena announced the reopening of Parliament, which he had suspended after sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, until then a political ally.

The president’s action has sparked criticism with many civil society groups protesting against his unexpected move, including his decision to name former dictator Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister. The latter has been accused of rights abuses and violations during the country’s civil war.

Set initially for next Monday, parliament will resume on Wednesday, placing its members in an awkward situation of having two prime ministers vying for their support.

"The people's voices have been heard. Parliament will be reconvened [. . .]. Democracy will prevail,” Wickremasinghe wrote on Twitter.

Yesterday, thousands of his supporters gathered in Colombo. One of them told AsiaNews that "Sirisena has betrayed the promises he made in the election campaign on the basis of which we voted for him."

On Wednesday, a delegation of activists met with parliamentary Speaker Karu Jayasooriya, handing him a petition signed by over 16,000people.

In its official statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) stressed that political leaders should not focus on “staying in power or getting into power, but serve the people and the development of the country".

The Methodist Church also expressed its concern over the constitutional crisis. Mgr Asiri Perera noted that the irresponsible actions of political leaders are the cause of this crisis, not ordinary Sri Lankans.

As Christians, he added, "we cannot wash our hands but we have the responsibility of kneeling before God to seek his blessings and mediation for our country and its people."

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