Sacked Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe refuses to vacate his Temple Trees official residence as police seek a court order to evict him.

Sri Lankan soldiers walk outside the prime minister's official residence in Colombo on October 28, 2018.
Sri Lankan soldiers walk outside the prime minister's official residence in Colombo on October 28, 2018. (AFP)

One man died and two others were injured when the security guard of a minister in the sacked Sri Lankan government opened fire at an office on Sunday as a constitutional crisis turned violent in the country. 

Police said a guard began shooting as Arjuna Ranatunga, petroleum minister in the cabinet of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, tried to enter his office at the state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corp.

One of those shot in the melee, a 34-year-old man, died shortly after being admitted to the Colombo National, hospital spokeswoman Pushpa Soysa said.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the guard had been arrested and an investigation launched. Ranatunga was safe but the security guard's motive was not immediately clear, he added.

It was the first report of serious violence since President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe on Friday and installed former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse as the new prime minister, triggering political chaos.

Political turmoil 

The tiny South Asian country off the southern tip of India plunged into political turmoil late on Friday after Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and swore in former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as his replacement.

The new ruling party had given Wickremesinghe till Sunday morning to leave the Temple Trees official residence.

However, Wickremesinghe has resisted moves to evict him from the residence.

Officials said police will now seek a court order to evict Wickremesinghe, whose security and official cars were also withdrawn by Sirisena on Saturday. 

Sirisena ordered to suspend parliament until Nov. 16,  in a move widely seen as an attempt to stop Wickremesinghe from trying to prove he maintains a parliamentary majority.

Assassination plot

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, President Sirisena said the main reason he decided to sack his prime minister was the alleged involvement of a Cabinet minister in a plot to assassinate him.

Sirisena said a person questioned by investigators has revealed the name of a minister in an alleged plot to assassinate him and a former defense secretary.

He said the only choice left for him under the circumstances was to sack Wickremesinghe and invite Rajapaksa to take over as prime minister and form a new government.

Speaker recognises Wickremesinghe as PM

Meanwhile, the speaker of parliament recognised Wickremesinghe as the country's lawful prime minister, three days after his sacking by the president.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said Wickremesinghe's request to retain the security and privileges of prime minister was fair until another candidate could prove a majority in parliament.

"I consider the said request to be a democratic and fair request," Jayasuriya said in a letter addressed to President Sirisena, who dismissed Wickremesinghe on Friday.

'Constitutional coup'

Wickremesinghe had earlier insisted Sirisena's dismissal of him was illegal and demanded an emergency session to prove he still commanded a majority.

Instead, Sirisena shut parliament for nearly three weeks to forestall any challenge against his appointment of former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse as the new prime minister.

Privately-run newspapers on Sunday described Sirisena's move as a "constitutional coup" that has plunged the country into an unprecedented crisis.

All police leave was cancelled as tensions heightened in Colombo and more troops were seen near Temple Trees as well as the president's office.

Western nations have expressed concern and asked all sides to act with restraint and respect the constitution.

Rajapakse seek blessings from monks

Meanwhile, Rajapakse travelled to a highly venerated Buddhist temple in the central district of Kandy to seek blessings from monks before naming a cabinet.

Rajapakse's aides said he was likely to name a few cabinet ministers later Sunday and begin work on Monday. He is yet to make a formal statement or address the nation since being elevated to the new post.

The former strongman is a controversial figure at home and abroad and presided over the crushing of a decades-long Tamil Tiger uprising.

He is seen as being closer to China than Wickremesinghe, who had sought to re-establish stronger ties with traditional ally and regional power India.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies