Sri Lanka’s ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe initiated moves Monday to take control of state finances as a power struggle with the country’s president entered a second month.
Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) said it would call a parliamentary vote this week to block spending by the new administration installed by President Maithripala Sirisena.
The UNP says that as Sri Lanka does not have a recognised government all spending powers should revert to parliament, where the UNP and its allies have a majority.
Sirisena set off the constitutional crisis on October 26 by sacking Wickremesinghe, naming the country’s former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse as prime minister, and seeking to dissolve parliament.
But the Supreme Court and legislators have blocked Sirisena and the parliament’s speaker has declared that neither Wickremesinghe nor Rajapakse are prime minister.
Wickremesinghe, who occupies the prime minister’s residence, and Rajapakse, who has the premier’s offices, have both refused to back down.
UNP spokesman Champika Ranawaka said a majority in the 225-member legislature would vote on Friday to freeze spending by Rajapakse’s disputed ministerial team. The UNP and its allies have 122 MPs.
“In the absence of a government, all financial control transfers to parliament,” Ranawaka told reporters. “We will directly have control over government spending through the legislature.”
Rajapakse has lost two no-confidence motions and two other votes in parliament but still insists he is in charge.
Ranawaka said the fifth motion against Rajapakse on Friday would seek to stop him from spending state funds.
“We are informing the Treasury that they cannot release any money for the purported government. It will be the parliament which will exercise its powers of finance directly from Friday,” Ranawaka said.
The political crisis worsened Sunday when Sirisena announced that he will never reinstate Wickremesinghe as prime minister even if he has a parliamentary majority.
“We warn the president to respect the majority of MPs and recognise Hon. Wickremesinghe,” Ranawaka said. “He must realise he can’t pick (and) choose a PM like shopping at a supermarket.”
Sri Lanka’s power vacuum is so acute that no budget for 2019 has been passed. Government finances will stall on January 1 unless a vote is taken.