November 29, 2018 / 8:02 AM / 15 days ago

Sri Lanka parliament to cut PM's budget amid weeks-long political crisis

FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka's newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa waves at staff after participating in the ceremony to assume his duties as the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs at the Finance Ministry in Colombo, Sri Lanka October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File photo

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s parliament on Thursday agreed to cut the budget of the Prime Minister’s office, a move designed to hinder disputed premier Mahinda Rajapaksa whose supporters boycotted the vote amid a weeks-long political crisis that shows no sign of ending.

Lawmakers opposed to Rajapaksa, who has lost two no confidence votes in parliament, regard his administration as illegitimate and say he should not be able to use government money for his day-to-day expenses.

“This means the prime minister will be dysfunctional. We will bring a similar motion tomorrow to cut down the expenditure of all other ministers,” said Ravi Karunanayake, the former finance minister who proposed Thursday’s motion which passed 123 to none in the 225-member parliament.

Thursday’s vote comes more than a month after President Maithripala Sirisena triggered the crisis by ousting former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with Rajapaksa, who was then in turn sacked by parliament.

Rajapaksa loyalists said Thursday’s vote is illegal because there is a pending court case over whether an attempt by Sirisena to dissolve parliament on Nov. 9 is constitutional. The court is set to rule on that issue next week.

“This is illegal. We don’t accept this as a legitimate motion,” W.D.J. Seneviratne, a lawmaker in Rajapaksa’s party, told Reuters before the vote.

“We have informed the speaker of our position and asked him not to allow this illegal motion to take up.”

Rajapaksa, under whose rule Sri Lanka achieved its 2009 victory in a decades-long conflict against rebels from the Tamil minority, is seen as a hero by many among Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority. He has been accused by diplomats of human rights abuses during the war, which he denies.

Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by John Geddie and Nick Macfie

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