The political turmoil in Sri Lanka deepened on Friday, November 9, after President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the Parliament, calling for early elections in the country on January 5, nearly 2 years ahead of schedule.
The Agence France-Presse cited an unnamed minister as saying that "the election is likely to be held in early January" rather than the scheduled date in 2020.
Tensions had been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister.
When called by the UNP and speaker Karu Jayasuriya to face the floor test allowing Wickremesinghe or Rajapaksa to effectively demonstrate their majority, Sirisena announced a snap general election when it became clear that his side could not garner the 113 members needed.
But the attempted switch failed after Rajapaksa's forces failed to convince enough MPs to join their new coalition - prompting Sirisena to gamble on fresh polls.
Wickremesinghe, who has not left the Temple Trees residence since his sacking, maintains that the action against him was unconstitutional and illegal, and insists his group can muster a majority. "It is on this imaginary premise that the minister suggests that parliament had to be dissolved".
Sri Lanka's new prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and 44 former lawmakers have defected from the party led by President Maithripala Sirisena, splitting with the president barely two weeks after he installed Rajapaksa in office. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.
Mark Field, the British minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, tweeted his concern about the dissolution of parliament days before it was due to be reconvened.
As a result the President considered the actions of the Speaker and other issues and dissolved Parliament and called for elections. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.
They were supported by the Tamil National Alliance, the main party representing ethnic Tamil groups in parliament, who said it too will petition the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the house. "Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper".
Rajapakse and the ousted Wickremesinghe have been battling for power for two weeks as global concern grew over the mounting turmoil in the strategically important island nation. Dinesh Gunawardena, a newly appointed urban development minister, said the president had handed the country back to the people.
"The party will be pursuing the intervention of the courts to ensure the rule of law and the Constitution is protected against autocratic moves", a UNP statement said.