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Colombo: Rival members of the Sri Lankan parliament clash during a session on Thursday.—AFP
Colombo: Rival members of the Sri Lankan parliament clash during a session on Thursday.—AFP

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s political crisis descended into farce on Thursday with MPs throwing punches and projectiles in parliament, a day after voting the disputed prime minister out of office and leaving the country without a government.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who triggered the unprecedented constitutional standoff by sacking prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month, held talks on Thursday with parties representing a majority in the legislature in a bid to defuse tensions.

An MP who was at the closed-door talks said there was no breakthrough to end the deadlock, but the parties agreed not to escalate tensions.

“The only way out is for the president to respect the no-confidence motion against his PM nominee,” the legislator said referring to Wednesday’s vote against Mahinda Rajapakse’s disputed government.

There was no immediate comment from Sirisena about the talks involving Wickremesinghe’s United National Party and two other smaller groups who together have 122 out of 225 MPs in the House.

The discussions followed a mass rally in Colombo where activists denounced Sirisena’s October 26 sacking of Wickremesinghe that plunged the Indian Ocean nation into turmoil three weeks ago.

Fisticuffs broke out in the national parliament earlier in the day as a majority of MPs moved another resolution against Rajapakse, this time to reject his call for snap elections.

“It was difficult to make out immediately who was hitting whom, but several were hurt, but not seriously,” an official in parliament said. “The speaker adjourned the House till tomorrow (Friday).” The official said an MP from toppled premier Rajapakse’s party injured himself trying to rip out the speaker’s microphone and had to be taken to hospital with a bleeding hand.

Two weeks after dismissing Wickremesinghe and appointing Rajapakse in his place, Sirisena dissolved the strategically important Indian Ocean nation’s parliament and called snap elections for January.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2018

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