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Sri Lanka's ousted PM says time running out to avert 'bloodbath'

photo by AP photo

Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has been holed up at the prime minister\'s official residence for more than a week as thousands of supporters gather outside, told AFP in an interview that \"desperate people\" could cause chaos on the Indian Ocean island.

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04th-Nov-2018       
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AFP, Colombo :
Sri Lanka's sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned time is running out to avert a "bloodbath" while voicing hope that parliament will resolve a damaging constitutional crisis in the coming days.
Wickremesinghe, who has been holed up at the prime minister's official residence for more than a week as thousands of supporters gather outside, told AFP in an interview that "desperate people" could cause chaos on the Indian Ocean island. The 69-year-old was sacked out-of-the-blue on October 26 by President Maithripala Sirisena, with domineering former president Mahinda Rajapakse named in his place.
However Wickremesinghe refused to accept his dismissal and has not left the sprawling colonial-era Temple Trees residence - where Buddhist monks now chant prayers outside - since. Sirisena also suspended parliament in an apparent bid to prevent opposition to his move, deepening the turmoil that has seen at least one man killed in a shooting last weekend linked to the power struggle.
"We will be calling on our people not to resort to violence," Wickremesinghe said late Friday. "But you don't know what arises in a situation like this. "A few desperate people can start off a bloodbath."
His comments echoed the fears of parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya who warned of bloodshed on the streets if a vote is not held by lawmakers to decide between the two leaders.
Wickremesinghe, head of the United National Party, already the biggest group in parliament, has also called for such a vote and is trying to rally allies to the cause.
But stopping parliament from meeting has given Rajapakse - still popular despite his strongarm tactics to end the country's Tamil civil war and corruption allegations - more time to try to win support.
Wickremesinghe said he hoped the showdown could be ended peacefully and expressed optimism that a solution to the crisis would soon be found. "I feel parliament is going to prevail finally. This can't take too long. I would say in a week to 10 days at the most," he said, adding the priority was to establish parliament's "supremacy".

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