Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has suspended Parliament for a month for reasons unknown, a top presidential source said.
With Parliament being prorogued abruptly Tuesday midnight, all parliamentary committees and bills presented stand null and void. Committees have to be reconstituted and bills presented again once Parliament commences.
Opposition parties, including the United National Party (UNP), the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), expressed their strong protest against the midnight move.
The government had prorogued Parliament "to unleash and cover up malpractices at the forthcoming elections", UNP's Colombo district parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake said.
Government officials, however, refused to divulge the reasons behind the move.
"The president by the powers vested in him under Article 70 (1) of the constitution, last midnight prorogued the Parliament till June 5," an official said.
"According to constitutional requirements, the president will open the new session on June 5 by making a special statement in Parliament," he said on condition of anonymity.
A special gazette notification announcing the prorogation has also been issued.
Under Article 70 (1) of the constitution, "the President may, from time to time, by proclamation summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament. A proclamation proroguing Parliament shall fix a date for the next session, not being more than two months after the date of the proclamation."
"This is one of the ways the government can prevent the opposition raising issues about malpractices in the eastern elections," opposition United National Party (UNP) Member of Parliament John Amaratunga said.
Eastern provincial elections are scheduled for Saturday. Fully liberated from Tamil rebels last year, it will be the first time in 20 years that elections will be held in the eastern province.
On Tuesday, the opposition raised issues about the presence of a former militant group which continues to carry weapons in the province which consists of three districts - Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai.