News World Sri Lankan lawmakers brawl in parliament

Sri Lankan lawmakers brawl in parliament

Rival lawmakers exchanged blows in Sri Lanka's Parliament on Thursday. Photo: AP
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Rival lawmakers have exchanged blows in Sri Lanka’s parliament as the disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed the speaker had no authority to remove him from office by voice vote.

Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya said the country had no government as Parliament re-convened on Thursday, a day after the no-confidence vote against Mr Rajapaksa.

He said there was no prime minister, neither Mr Rajapaksa nor his rival whose ousting in late October started the crisis.

Mr Rajapaksa said the no-confidence vote should not have been a voice vote.

“We expect the Speaker to be an independent speaker and not a close friend of your party or the West,” Mr Rajapaksa told parliament. “We want a general election.”

Soon after his speech, Mr Rajapaksa’s supporters poured on to the floor of parliament, throwing water bottles and trash cans.

More than two dozen lawmakers fought and some who fell on the floor were kicked by rivals.

Disputed PM Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo on Thursday. Photo: AP

The turmoil went on for almost 20 minutes after which the Speaker, failing to bring the house to order, left parliament without making any statement.

“According to the no-confidence vote held yesterday, there is no prime minister or cabinet of ministers as of now as all those posts are invalidated by the vote,” Mr Jayasuriya had told parliament earlier.

Mr Sirisena, who triggered the crisis by firing Mr Wickremesinghe and naming Mr Rajapaksa to the job late last month, dissolved parliament last week and ordered elections as a way to break the deadlock.

But the Supreme Court ordered a suspension of that decree on Tuesday until it had heard petitions challenging the move as unconstitutional.

Mr Rajapaksa, under whose rule Sri Lanka achieved its 2009 victory in a decades-long conflict against rebels from the Tamil minority, is seen as a hero by many among Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority.

He has been accused by diplomats of human rights abuses during the war, which he denies.

-with Associated Press