Sri Lanka crisis turns violent as one killed at ex-minister’s office

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Sri Lanka’s “ousted” prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (C) attends a media conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Oct. 27, 2018. Sri Lanka has been plunged into crisis since Friday, when President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly sacked Mr Wickremesinghe and swore in ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister to replace him. Xinhua

COLOMBO (Reuters) – A political crisis in Sri Lanka took a deadly turn on Sunday, with one person killed and two injured when a sacked cabinet minister tried to re-enter his office, days after the president removed the prime minister and installed a powerful ally of China in his place.

The incident took place at the headquarters of state oil company Ceylon Petroleum Corp, where Arjuna Ranatunga, petroleum minister in the ousted cabinet, tried to re-enter his office. Police said one of Mr Ranatunga’s security guards opened fire.

The guard had been arrested and an investigation launched, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said. Mr Ranatunga was safe and the security guard’s motive was not immediately clear, he added.

Sri Lanka has been plunged into crisis since Friday, when President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and swore in ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister to replace him.

Mr Sirisena said the move was motivated by a plot to kill him, and by economic collapse. Mr Wickremesinghe says it was illegal and he is still prime minister.

Mr Rajapaksa ruled as president from 2005-2015.

On Saturday, Mr Sirisena suspended parliament until Nov. 16, a move the ousted prime minister’s supporters say was intended to prevent lawmakers from showing support for Mr Wickremesinghe.

The standoff has important geopolitical implications in a country long influenced by its neighbor India, and which became massively indebted to China to finance huge infrastructure projects during Mr Rajapaksa’s decade as president.

Most of Sri Lanka’s allies including India, the European Union and the United States, have urged Mr Sirisena to abide by the constitution. But China, long seen as Mr Rajapaksa supporter, congratulated him on becoming prime minister. Chinese officials deny interfering in Sri Lankan affairs.

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