Sri Lanka president seeks fresh no-confidence motion against new PM

Sri Lanka's newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks during the parliament session in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s president on Thursday called for a fresh no-confidence motion against the prime minister he appointed last month, a move that could help break a political gridlock in the south Asian country hit by a constitutional crisis.

The country appeared politically rudderless after the speaker of parliament declared there was no functioning prime minister or cabinet due to a no-confidence vote on Wednesday against Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom President Maithripala Sirisena appointed last month in controversial circumstances.

But late on Thursday Sirisena met Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and leaders of some political parties, urging them to hold a new motion on Friday and drop their position that the appointment of Rajapaksa as prime minister was unconstitutional.

“The president informed them to show their majority in parliament in a proper way following parliamentary procedure, and agreed to act according to the constitution,” Sirisena’s media team said in a statement after the meetings.

It was not immediately clear if the call for a new motion meant Sirisena was willing to acknowledge that Rajapaksa did not enjoy broad parliamentary support. Reuters could not immediately contact the political parties the president met with.

Parliament had passed a no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa and his government with the backing of 122 of the 225 lawmakers in a voice vote, followed by a signed document.

Sirisena, who triggered the crisis by firing Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and naming Rajapaksa to the job, dissolved parliament last week and ordered elections to break the deadlock.

But the Supreme Court ordered a suspension of that decree on Tuesday until it had heard petitions challenging the move as unconstitutional.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Writing by Krishna Das; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg