Maithripala Sirisena meets UN envoy amid rising concerns over political crisis
Amidst the political turmoil in Sri Lanka, a top UN envoy here met President Maithripala Sirisena Wednesday and discussed the prevailing political crisis, days after he sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer met Sirisena days after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed "great concern" over the deepening political crisis and called on the country's government to respect democratic values and constitutional provisions and process.
The President's office said that during the meeting, Sirisena assured Singer that the government has taken all the steps in accordance with the Constitution, the Colombo Gazette reported.
Sirisena said that the country is executing its functions within a democratic framework and appreciated the assistance given by the UN.
Expressing her views, Singer said that the UN is ready to provide every possible assistance to Sri Lanka in the future as well.
On Tuesday, she met Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and conveyed Guterres' message for the need to respect democratic values and constitutional provisions in the country, amid ongoing political crisis.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in a statement, urged the Sri Lankan authorities to respect journalists' safety and editorial independence after supporters of Rajapaksa invaded state media outlets on October 26 in order to seize control of them.
Journalists have found themselves at the centre of the political power struggle that began when President Sirisena fired prime minister Wickramasinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa, who earned a prominent position on the RSF's list of the world's biggest press freedom predators during two terms as president, from 2005 to 2015, it said.
"Just minutes after Rajapaksa was sworn in as prime minister, supporters of his party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), led by former information minister Keheliya Rambukwella, invaded the newsrooms of various state media.
"Helped by union leaders linked to the SLPP, they took control of the two public service TV channels, Rupavahini and ITN, the radio stations that are part of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, and the Lake House press group," it added.
In a dramatic turn of events last Friday, Sirisena replaced Wickremesinghe with former president Rajapaksa.
He also suspended Parliament until November 16, which experts said was meant to buy time to engineer crossovers from Wickremesinghe's side to Rajapaksa in the 225 member parliament to reach the 113 working majority mark.
Rajapaksa has so far managed to rope in five more lawmakers to bolster his strength to 101.
On Tuesday, angry protests rocked Sri Lanka's capital as thousands of demonstrators gathered for a rally organised by deposed prime minister Wickremesinghe's party against what it said was a "coup" by President Sirisena, even as the opposing sides were engaged in efforts to secure their numbers in Parliament to end the country's political crisis.
Sirisena is under increasing political and diplomatic pressure to reconvene Parliament and resolve the Constitutional crisis.
Wickramasinghe, who is refusing to accept his dismissal, argues that he cannot legally be dismissed until he loses the support of Parliament.
(With inputs from agencies.)