Political crisis has deepened in Sri Lanka as the country’s sacked prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, defies a presidential order to step down and move out of his official residence.
On Sunday, Wickremesinghe ignored the eviction order issued by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and defiantly called for a crisis meeting with political allies as a thousand supporters had gathered outside his residence.
Officials said police would then seek a court order to evict Wickremesinghe from the residence.
Sirisena appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister on Friday after sacking Wickremesinghe, who was away touring the south of the country.
The ousted prime minister later insisted his dismissal had been illegal and demanded an emergency session to prove he still commanded a majority.
But the Sri Lankan president shut the parliament for nearly three weeks on Saturday to forestall any challenge against his appointment of Rajapakse as the new premier, a move that was described by some local privately-run papers as a “constitutional coup” that could plunge the country into an unprecedented crisis.
Reports said all police leaves were canceled as tensions heightened in the capital Colombo; and that security forces had increased in numbers in the vicinity of the presidential office.
Political tensions heightened further after the speaker of parliament said on Sunday that he still recognized Wickremesinghe as the lawful prime minister of Sri Lanka.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya backed Wickremesinghe’s request to retain the privileges and security of prime minister until another candidate could prove he had a majority.
“I consider the said request to be a democratic and fair request,” Jayasuriya said in a letter addressed to the president.
Sri Lanka’s regional neighbors and Western nations have called on all political sides in the Indian Ocean country to exercise restraint and respect the constitution.
Rajapakse has reportedly traveled to a highly venerated Buddhist temple in the central district of Kandy to seek blessings from monks before naming a cabinet likely on Monday.