By Arun Kumaresan –
“If we wish to preserve the Constitution in which we have sought to enshrine the principle of Government of the people, for the people and by the people, let us resolve not to be tardy in the recognition of the evils that lie across our path and which induce people to prefer Government for the people to Government by the people, nor to be weak in our initiative to remove them. That is the only way to serve the country. I know of no better’ ~ BR Ambedkar
October 26th 2018 will be recorded as an important date in the political history of Sri Lanka. It was the beginning of series of events that unfolded when the President of Sri Lanka acted unconstitutionally to sack a sitting Prime Minister, appointing a new Prime Minister (who even to date does not have command of the majority) and issuing a gazette to dissolve the Parliament. For any laymen the constitution is very clear and his actions could be termed as a well planned constitutional coup. All the above matters are right now in both the Supreme Court & the Court of Appeal.
Current Tirade by President on appointing a PM; amplifies symptoms of ‘Lunacy’
At the meeting with UNF leaders on Dec 3rd – President Maithripala Sirisena has told UNF leaders that he won’t give the Premiership to Ranil Wickremesinghe even if all 225 MPs signed and made a request from him – MP Lakshman Kiriella .
Amplifying the above at the SLFP Central Committee meeting on Dec 4th – . Quote “Why did I say this? I have no personal issues with him and its not because we are from different parties. I say this because he is an alien to this country; his vision doesn’t belong in Sri Lanka. We have a rich history, a vibrant culture, traditions and religious principles, of many great sages but this man has not been influenced by any of these. So my decision is clearly a political one.”…Despite the perception that Wickremesinghe cared about the plight of the minorities, he brought in a number of acts that stripped away the rights given to Provincial Councils by the 13th amendment. Moreover he betrayed the Tamil people by not carrying out things that could have been easily done for them. He is a stubborn, far right neoliberal bent on destroying the country. I frustrated his attempts at dismantling the nation. Last three and a half years have been a difficult time for me. Fellow cabinet ministers know this”.
From SLFP Central Committee meeting on Dec 4th – Hitting out at the interim order issued by the Court of Appeal which prevented purported Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government from functioning in office, President Maithripala Sirisena likened the decision to a head monk of a village temple dictating terms to the chief prelate of a chapter…Sirisena said there were diverse opinions about the functioning of the judiciary. “Some say the judiciary is highly independent while some allege its conduct is partial. Nevertheless, I respect the judiciary.”
There are many such utterances in general to amplify the state of unstable mind of the President but the above suffice in the context of his act in “Contempt of Parliament”.
Prime Minister & the Parliament
The sovereign power lies with the people, which are represented by the parliament. The function of the government is represented by the group which has the majority. Post Oct 26 , irrespective of all unconstitutional acts by the President & unethical ones of enticing members that happened with the absolute blessings of the President; majority still remains with the legal government that was subjected to & overthrown by a political coup. This majority has been proved again & again. The guideline to appoint a PM is well defined in the constitution as depicted below:
42. (1) There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the Government of the Republic. (2) The Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament. (3) The President shall be a member of the Cabinet of Ministers and shall be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers. (4) The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in the President’s opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.
The drafters of the constitution in establishing the proof for “command the confidence of the parliament” has obviously omitted and intentionally avoided reference that such person has to command the confidence of the President – not because that they feared one day a person like the current President will emerge but to safeguard the Supremacy of the Parliament, where peoples sovereignty is deposited. That cannot and should not be allowed to be trespassed or challenged by the President.
The method of empirically verifying who command the confidence of Parliament is a vote in the floor of the parliament and there are no other caveats can be laid by the President under any pretexts. Hence, President’s attempt to decide on who will be the PM amounts to Contempt of Parliament. He is already is in contempt of repeated violations of the constitution & his comment on Court of Appeal judgment (by correlating it to an Head Monk of an village temple dictating terms to the chief prelate of the chapter) boarders contempt of court and tells a lot of his unstable mental state.
Resolution to this Impasse
Speaker has since Oct 26th been the foundation and centre point in protecting both the democracy and the parliament. He must now give due cognizance of the current mantel status leading to the irrational, illogical and illegal behavior by President. Sri Lanka cannot be a victim of his cognitive biases and inferiority complexes. Speaker must engage and retain legal scholars to refer the matter to Supreme Court on his behalf as an urgent petition using either Section 37 (2) (as his debility in rational thinking is well established beyond reasonable doubt based on his actions and repeated statements – not fit for the holder of the office of President) or any other provisions to get a binding ruling on the Section 42 (4) of the constitution. The simple question to the Supreme Court to determine being;
Can the President determine a PM of his liking or make a demand anyone other than the person who deemed to have the confidence of the Parliament???
Over to you: Honorable Speaker.