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Fighting Breaks Out in Sri Lanka’s Parliament as Political Crisis Deepens

Scuffles between Sri Lanka's parliament members are seen during the parliament session in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Nov. 15, 2018.

A day after ousting the prime minister in a no-confidence vote, Sri Lanka’s parliament descended into violence when rival lawmakers exchanged blows.

Parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya declared Thursday that Sri Lanka had no prime minister or a Cabinet after Wednesday’s voice vote that removed Mahinda Rajapaksa from office. Jayasuriya held the voice vote after Rajapaksa’s supporters staged a noisy protest just before debate began over the motion.

Rajapaksa denounced the speaker’s move in his first speech after his ouster and urged lawmakers to support legislation calling for a general election. His supporters then rushed onto the chamber floor and began brawling with lawmakers of the opposing party, and some began hurling water bottles and other projectiles at Jayasuriya.

The crisis began Oct. 26, when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, claiming that an informant told police that a Cabinet minister was part of a plot to assassinate him. He replaced Wickremesinghe with Rajapaksa, the country’s former president and strongman, then suspended parliament the next day. In an apparent bow to international pressure, Sirisena summoned lawmakers back to work last Monday.

But when it became apparent that Rajapaksa would not survive the no-confidence vote, Sirisena dissolved parliament and called for snap elections. The Supreme Court overruled the president’s decree in a ruling issued Tuesday.

Rajapaksa is considered a hero by many of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority for ending the decades-long uprising launched by minority Tamil rebels. But he has also been accused of several human rights violations during his tenure.