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Sri Lanka’s top court stays president’s order to sack parliament

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended a presidential decree to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections, heightening the country’s political uncertainty.

FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka’s newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Maithripala Sirisena talk during a rally near the parliament in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

Later on Tuesday, Karu Jayasuriya, the speaker of Parliament said the legislature would reconvene at 10 a.m. (0430 GMT) on Wednesday, as originally scheduled.

Sri Lanka has been in political turmoil since President Maithripala Sirisena fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month and appointed a pro-China former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his place.

Sirisena, facing international pressure, reconvened parliament on Nov. 14, but on Friday, he suddenly dissolved it and ordered a general election for Jan. 5.

But the Supreme Court, hearing petitions by supporters of Wickremesinghe, stayed the latest presidential orders until Dec. 7. It will decide then on the petitions challenging the decree.

Sirisena did not have the authority to sack parliament, according to a constitutional amendment passed in 2015, the petitioners said.

Sirisena’s supporters said the coalition government had failed to deliver on its promises and an election was the best course

The instability in the island nation of 21 million people has raised concerns for its economy, already expanding at its slowest pace in more than a decade.

Wickremesinghe welcomed the court’s decision as being in line with the constitution. “You can’t play football with the constitution and you can’t bend the constitution as and how you want.”

He said parliament should open on Wednesday, when he hoped to prove his majority.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez; editing by Sanjeev Miglani, editing by Larry King

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