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Sri Lanka parliament blocks govt spending amid crisis
Sri Lanka’s parliament on Friday escalated a power struggle with president Maithripala Sirisena, voting to block spending by the disputed government he installed last month.
The legislature decided to suspend money allocated for all ministries a day after cutting off funds to the office of Mahinda Rajapakse, who was controversially appointed to replace prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe’s party said parliament was taking full financial control because the cabinet named by Rajapakse was unconstitutional and therefore running the government illegally.
Sri Lanka has been in crisis since October 26 when Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapakse - who was voted out twice by parliament this month, but refuses to step down.
Friday’s resolution, approved with the support of 122 MPs in the 225-member assembly, stopped spending by all ministers and their staff.
However, it allowed the treasury to pay salaries and pensions and spend on maintaining essential services.
The move came a day after the country’s main minority Tamil party, which holds the balance of power in parliament, sided with Wickremesinghe’s coalition.
The Tamil National Alliance, which has 14 crucial seats, said it wanted Sirisena to restore Wickremesinghe’s administration that was summarily dismissed last month.
Friday’s move by parliament further weakens Sirisena and Rajapakse, who will not be able to finance their administration.
It worsens matters for the purported government 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.
Friday’s move means the finance ministry cannot pay out any money to service any debts, although no payments are due until mid-January.