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Thousands Protest in Sri Lanka After Prime Minister's Ouster


Supporters of Sri Lanka's sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe gather outside the prime ministers official residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Oct. 30, 2018.

Thousands of supporters of Sri Lanka's ousted prime minister are demanding the president reconvene Parliament to resolve the political crisis.

Protesters that included rights activists and legislators rallied in the capital Columbo near the official residence of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Wickremesinghe on Friday and replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The protests took place one day after Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya warned of violent outbreaks if parliament did not reconvene immediately.

Sirisena suspended parliament on Saturday, apparently to give Rajapaksa time to garner enough support to survive a no-confidence vote.

Wickremesinghe, who says he still controls most lawmakers, has demanded they be summoned without further delay. His ouster has sparked a power struggle that some observers say has blown into a constitutional crisis.

Speaking to the protesters, Wickremesinghe accused Sirisena of abusing his executive powers by suspending Parliament.

"We are gathered here to safeguard democracy in our country," he said.

One of the many placards demonstrators held read "let's defeat dictatorship that undermines the constitution, restore democracy, uphold the constitution and convene Parliament to end crisis."

On Sunday, the first violent incident linked to the turmoil claimed the lives of two people and wounded another as former oil minister Arjuna Ranatunga tried to enter his office at the Petroleum Ministry.

Sirisena said he dismissed Wickremesinghe primarily because of the involvement of a Cabinet minister in an alleged plan to assassinate him, but he did not offer any details. Police are investigating the alleged plot, but no arrests have been made.

The United States has said it is monitoring the crisis "with concern" and called on Sirisena to reconvene Parliament.

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