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Sri Lanka turmoil deepens as new PM loses confidence vote

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Sri Lanka turmoil deepens as new PM loses confidence vote

Sri Lanka turmoil deepens as new PM loses confidence vote
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STRINGER(Reuters)
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By Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's parliament passed a no-confidence motion against newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa amid raucous opposition on Wednesday, throwing the country deeper into crisis.

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Rajapaksa's allies said they could not accept the vote, shouting "this is illegal".

Sri Lanka has been in turmoil since President Maithripala Sirisena fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last month, replaced him with Rajapaksa, a pro-China strongman, and dissolved parliament.

The Supreme Court stayed a presidential decree to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections on Tuesday and the house sat again on Wednesday.

"The (no-confidence) motion was taken to vote by voice on the floor and it had a majority support. Now we are going to sign the papers,” R. Sambanthan, leader of an opposition group bitterly opposed to Rajapaska, told Reuters.

Five other opposition law makers also confirmed the move.

The instability in the island nation of 21 million people has raised concerns for its economy, already expanding at its slowest pace in more than a decade.

On Wednesday, the central bank unexpectedly raised its key policy rates, a move aimed at defending a faltering rupee as foreign capital outflows picked up in Sri Lanka, where both India and China are locked in a tussle for influence.

The parliamentary speaker has called the president's sacking of the prime minister to bring a former leader back to power a non-violent coup d'etat.

Rajapaksa, under whose rule Sri Lanka achieved its 2009 victory in a decades-long conflict against rebels from the Tamil minority, is seen as a hero by many among Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority. He has been accused by diplomats of human rights abuses during the war, which he denies.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie)

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