Sri Lankan lawmakers protest bribery summons for ex-leader

AP News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2015 4:36 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A protest staged by lawmakers backing former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ran into a second day Tuesday after the country's bribery commission summoned the ex-leader and his brothers to explain their actions while in power.

The protesters said the summons was an affront to the brothers who were instrumental in ending Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war.

Rajapaksa was asked to appear before the commission to explain why he gave a ministerial position last year to an opposition leader soon after he defected to support Rajapaksa's presidential re-election campaign. Rajapaksa's rivals say handing out the ministerial position was a bribe.

His brothers, former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and former Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, were also summoned over allegations of financial irregularities.

Lawmakers backing the Rajapaksas protested overnight in Parliament, and resumed the sit-in after a brief break on Tuesday. Later the speaker adjourned the sittings until Monday.

A bill scheduled to be debated Tuesday to clip the vast powers a president has and empower the Parliament and an independent judiciary and police was also postponed until Monday. All were pledged by Maithripala Sirisena ahead of January's presidential election in which he defeated Rajapaksa.

The minority government needs two-thirds of the votes in the 225-member Parliament to pass the amendment, and the dispute may prevent that.

Sirisena, who was health minister in Rajapaksa's Cabinet, narrowly defeated Rajapaksa after he led a revolt in the party.

Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa led the military campaign that defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels and ended the civil war in 2009. The rebels were fighting for an independent state for the country's ethnic Tamil minority.

According to a conservative U.N estimate, about 100,000 people were killed in the conflict, but the actual toll is believed to be much higher.