Sri Lanka court denies Rajapakse authority to act as PM

The decision casts further legal doubt over Rajapakse's claim to lead Sri Lanka, which has been in turmoil since his controversial appointment a month ago.

Sri Lanka court denies Rajapakse authority to act as PM

A court in Sri Lanka on Monday suspended Mahinda Rajapakse's powers as prime minister and ruled his disputed cabinet could not govern the strife-torn island until it proved its legitimacy.

Rajapakse, who was installed after the country's president sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister on October 26, has twice been voted out by parliament but has refused to step down.

There was no immediate comment from Rajapakse or his supporters.

President Maithripala Sirisena has been under pressure to prove his appointee Rajapakse -- a divisive but charismatic strongman who twice ruled Sri Lanka -- commands support.

Rajapakse has ignored parliament and doubled down, naming a cabinet and assuming duties at the helm of a disputed government even as his rivals frustrate his attempt to govern.

A majority of legislators asked the Court of Appeal last week to intervene, saying Rajapakse should not have remained in office after parliament passed motions against him.

Their position "was that Rajapakse had no legitimacy after losing two no-confidence motions," lawyer and legislator M. A. Sumanthiran told reporters after the decision.

The court gave Rajapakse until December 12 to prove to its judges his legitimacy to lead and the authority of his cabinet.

Until then, it agreed that "irreparable or irremediable damage" could be done to Sri Lanka if Rajapakse was allowed to remain as head of government, said court chairman Padman Surasena.

Wickremesinghe -- who was unceremoniously dumped by his former ally Sirisena in a late-night power swap -- says his sacking was illegal, and parliament supports his stake to lead the country.

The ousted prime minister last week gained the backing of a powerful group of Tamil lawmakers who hold the balance of power -- cementing his parliament majority.