Sri Lanka temporarily bars Rajapaksa from acting as PM

Mahinda Rajapaksa has refused to step down despite losing two no-confidence votes. Net photo.

A Sri Lankan court has barred former President Mahinda Rajapaksa from acting as prime minister as it hears a petition challenging his refusal to step down despite losing two no-confidence motions last month.

Judge Arjuna Obeyesekere issued the stay order on Monday, saying “irreparable damage would be caused” if Rajapaksa and ministers of his cabinet continued to hold office.

While the decision would leave Sri Lanka without a government, allowing a “set of persons who are not entitled in law to function as the prime minister or the cabinet of ministers or any other minister of government” would cause irremediable damage that poses far-reaching consequences to the whole country, the judge said.

The Court of Appeal will sit again on December 12 to deliver a verdict, he added.

Sri Lanka has been in crisis since October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa, a controversial but popular leader accused of corruption and grave human rights abuses.

The former president, however, failed to show a majority in parliament, prompting Sirisena to dissolve the 225-member House and call snap elections. But both moves were temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court, which is expected to deliver a verdict in that case on December 7.