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Sri Lanka’s President suspends parliament in a surprise move

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena suspended parliament until May 8 late on Thursday, his secretary said, in a surprise move days after fractures appeared in the island nation’s ruling coalition government.

“The President has prorogued parliament until May 8,” his Secretary Austin Fernando told Reuters. He declined to give any reasons for the president’s decision.

The President has made the decision to prorogue the parliament by virtue of the powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution.

The move came after the government promised a cabinet reshuffle after a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was defeated last week.

A senior minister, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said : “The prorogation means all the existing parliament committees will be lapsed and new committees have to be appointed when the parliament is reconvened.”

Some main parliament committees including those looking into public enterprises and accounts are headed by opposition lawmakers.

Six ministers quit Sri Lanka’s troubled coalition government, forcing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to patch up his cabinet Thursday ahead of a wider reshuffle.

Mr Wickremesinghe gave the duties of the six Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ministers to four other members of his Cabinet.

The prime minister’s United National Party had increased pressure on the followers of President Maithripala Sirisena – who voted against Mr Wickremesinghe in a recent no-confidence motion – to resign.

With the help of minority Tamil and Muslim parties, the premier defeated the motion, dealing a blow to Mr Sirisena, who had campaigned for Mr Wickremesinghe to stand down.

Those who voted against Mr Wickremesinghe “have no moral right to remain in government”, Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said.

Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, one of the 16 legislators who decided to join the opposition said: “We were to cross over and sit with the opposition on April 19. Now we will do that on May 8.”

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