Sri Lanka president calls third vote on no-confidence motion against premier

A protester wears a mask depicting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during a rally in Colombo on November 15. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Sri Lanka president calls third vote on no-confidence motion against premier

  • ‘To decide on the no confidence motion presented against the government, president noted that he wanted a vote with a name call or electronically displayed’

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday asked an all-party meeting to hold a third vote on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, deepening the country’s political crisis.
Sirisena called the all-party leaders’ meeting after Rajapaksa, his choice to lead the government, was voted out twice within days by a majority in a no-confidence motion.
A lawmaker loyal to Sirisena told reporters that the president rejected the outcome of the second vote held on Friday, which potentially strengthened the hand of Ranil Wickremesinghe who is seeking to return as prime minister.
“To decide on the no confidence motion presented against the government, president noted that he wanted a vote with a name call or electronically displayed,” Sirisena’s office said in a statement.
The country’s parliament descended into chaos for a third straight day last Friday as lawmakers supporting Rajapaksa threw books, chili paste, water bottles and furniture at the speaker to try to disrupt the no-confidence vote.
Sirisena’s office said all the party leaders at the Sunday meeting agreed to have a disciplined legislature when proceedings start on Monday.
Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Anura Kumara Dissanayake, leader of the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peremuna (JVP) party, did not participate in the meeting.
“We believe that refusing to accept the formerly adopted no-confidence motion that rejects the appointment of the nominal premiership and coming out with various types of cheap excuses are not appropriate for a President of a country,” Dissanayake said in a letter to Sirisena, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
Sirisena late last month removed and replaced Wickremesinghe with Rajapaksa, plunging the island off India’s southeast coast into political turmoil.
With parliament scheduled to reconvene on Monday, Sirisena appears faced with the choice of either re-appointing Wickremesinghe, whom he has said he will not bring back, or allowing the crisis to fester.
Wickremesinghe’s party said it was ready for a “floor test” in parliament to prove it had majority support for the ousted prime minister.
“Mahinda Rajapaksa should (be) subject to a floor test. The so-called prime minister should show his majority in Parliament and if the speaker’s rulings are wrong, you can bring a motion to cancel those motions,” Lakshman Kiriella, a Wickremesinghe loyalist, told reporters after Sunday’s meeting.


Venezuela ‘on alert,’ closes Curacao border ahead of aid shipment

Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez attends a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, February 19, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 min 40 sec ago
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Venezuela ‘on alert,’ closes Curacao border ahead of aid shipment

  • Despite sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, with a shortage of food and medicine

CARACAS: Venezuela’s military said Tuesday it was on “alert” at its frontiers following threats by US President Donald Trump and ordered its border with Curacao closed ahead of a planned aid shipment.
Opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido vowed to bring aid in from various points Saturday “one way or another” despite military efforts to block it.
But commanders doubled down on their allegiance to President Nicolas Maduro after Trump warned them to abandon him.
“The armed forces will remain deployed and on alert along the borders... to avoid any violations of territorial integrity,” said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino.
Regional commander Vladimir Quintero later confirmed media reports that Venezuela had ordered the suspension of air and sea links with Curacao and the neighboring Netherlands Antilles islands of Aruba and Bonaire.
Shipments of food and medicine for Venezuelans suffering in the country’s economic crisis have become a focus of the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido.
Aid is being stored in Colombia near the Venezuelan border and Guaido aims also to bring in consignments via Brazil and Curacao.
A Brazilian presidential spokesman said the country was cooperating with the United States to supply aid to Venezuela but would leave it to Venezuelans to take the goods over the border.
Maduro says the aid plan is a smokescreen for a US invasion. He blames US sanctions and “economic war” for Venezuela’s crisis.

Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of the Venezuelan legislature, has appealed to military leaders to switch allegiance to him and let the aid through.
He has offered military commanders an amnesty if they abandon Maduro.
But the military high command has so far maintained its public backing for Maduro — seen as key to keeping him in power.
“We reiterate unrestrictedly our obedience, subordination and loyalty” to Maduro, Padrino said.
Guaido posted a series of tweets calling by name on senior military leaders commanding border posts to abandon Maduro.
He has branded Maduro illegitimate, saying the elections that returned the socialist leader to power last year were fixed.
The United States and some 50 other countries back Guaido as interim president.
Trump has refused to rule out US military action in Venezuela. He raised the pressure on Monday, issuing a warning to the Venezuelan military.
He told them that if they continue to support Maduro, “you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”
Padrino rejected Trump’s threat, branding the US president “arrogant.”
If foreign powers try to help install a new government by force, they will have to do so “over our dead bodies,” Padrino said.

Despite sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, with a shortage of food and medicine.
It has suffered four years of recession marked by hyperinflation that the International Monetary Fund says will reach 10 million percent this year.
An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015.
Guaido says 300,000 people face death without the aid but Maduro denies there is a humanitarian crisis.
Padrino said the military would not be “blackmailed” by “a pack of lies and manipulations.”
Maduro said that 300 tons of Russian aid would reach Venezuela on Wednesday. He previously announced the arrival of goods from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.
In a series of tweets, Guaido urged supporters to write to the generals “from the heart, with arguments, without violence, without insults,” to win them over.

Guaido says he has enlisted the support of 700,000 people to help bring in the aid on Saturday and is aiming for a million in total.
He thanked Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain for pledging “more than $18 million for the humanitarian aid.”
British entrepreneur Richard Branson said he will hold a pro-aid concert just over the border in Colombia on Friday.
British rock star Peter Gabriel and Colombian pop singer Carlos Vives are among those scheduled to perform.
Former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters weighed in on Maduro’s side in a video broadcast on Venezuelan state media, criticizing Branson and Gabriel and said the aid was being politicized.
Maduro’s government plans to stage a rival concert on its side of the border.