COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan lawmakers submitted a motion Monday to suspend the expenses of disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has lost two no-confidence motions in Parliament amid an ongoing political crisis.
A lawmaker from the Marxist Peoples' Liberation Front, which is opposed to Rajapaksa, said last week's passing of the no-confidence motions meant that Rajapaksa's office and the government had ceased to exist and therefore has no power to spend public money.
The lawmaker, Anura Dissanayaka, said Parliament has the power over public finances and it was on that basis that Monday's motion was submitted. The vote will take place Nov. 29.
Sri Lanka has been in crisis since Oct. 26, when President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa, a former president. Wickremesinghe has said he still has the support of a majority in Parliament.
M.A. Sumanthiran, another lawmaker opposed to Rajapaksa, said Monday's motion was presented by a group of 122 lawmakers. He said it is a "token of what the powers the Parliament can exercise when the group claiming to be the government does not have the majority in Parliament and refuses to bow to a no vote."
The latest motion was presented a day after a crucial meeting among political party leaders failed to reach a breakthrough to resolve the political crisis.
Both Rajapaksa and Sirisena have refused to accept the results of the no-confidence motions, saying proper procedures have not been followed.
Rajapaksa has said the vote should not have been done by voice. He also insisted the speaker had no authority to remove him and said he is continuing in his role as prime minister. Lawmakers opposed to Rajapaksa have said his government is illegal.
Parliament turned violent when the no-confidence motions were taken up last week, with rival lawmakers exchanging blows. On Friday, lawmakers supporting Rajapaksa threw books, chairs and chili powder mixed with water to try to block the proceedings.
Rajapaksa is considered a hero by some in the ethnic Sinhalese majority for ending a long civil war by crushing ethnic Tamil Tiger rebels. However, his time in power was marred by allegations of wartime atrocities, corruption and nepotism.
Tensions had been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe has repeatedly denied.