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Sri Lanka parliament blocks cash flow to Rajapakse's office

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Sri Lanka's ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe arrives at the parliament in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 29, 2018. Parliament voted Thursday to block any spending by the prime minister's office, further paralysing a government adrift from weeks of conflict as two rivals claim to run the country.

[COLOMBO] Sri Lanka's parliament voted Thursday to block any spending by the prime minister's office, further paralysing a government adrift from weeks of conflict as two rivals claim to run the country.

The island has been in crisis since Oct 26 when the president sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Mahinda Rajapakse, a charismatic but divisive former leader.

Mr Wickremesinghe has refused to stand aside and commands a majority in parliament, which has twice voted against Mr Rajakapse's leadership and demanded he vacate the top office.

The war-era strongman has doubled down and backed by President Maithripala Sirisena, has named a Cabinet and assumed duties as head of a disputed government without parliamentary support.

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In a further effort to undercut his power, parliament moved a resolution cutting off funds to the prime minister's office, depriving Mr Rajapakse of the cash he needs to run government.

"We propose to stop any spending because he is not holding the position of prime minister legally," said Ravi Karunanayake, a legislator from Wickremesinghe's party.

"This is a rogue government and parliament will take back control of finances through this motion."

It worsens matters for the purported government headed by Mr Rajapakse, which has been unable to present a budget for 2019 and risks entering the new year without parliamentary approval for any new spending.

Moody's recently downgraded Sri Lanka's credit rating amid warnings the island could default on its considerable foreign debt.

Meanwhile, two MPs defected from the Sirisena-Rajapakse faction on Thursday to Mr Wickremesinghe's camp, dealing a further blow to the ailing government unable to stamp its authority since last month.

AFP