Executive Pandemonium-ist aka President and Leader of the United People’s Freedom Alliance and Chairman of the coalition Government partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Maithripala Sirisena in a dictatorial and what will eventually turn out to be an exceedingly foolish show of power befitting his predecessor whom he ousted on 8 January of 2015, to usher in the flower power of yahapalanaya (good governance) and its grandiose rhetoric, has usurped a sitting Prime Minister, Leader of the United National Front for Good Governance and coalition Government partner, the United National Party, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and sworn in his former nemesis, Parliamentarian and former despot par excellence, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a man whom Sirisena claimed would have ensured that the then common candidate, Sirisena himself, was six feet under had Sirisena not prevailed at the last Presidential Election, and a man who along with his cronies, whom Sirisena claimed was also responsible for grave crimes and large scale financial corruption, as the Prime Minister.
This is a betrayal, pure and simple, of the January 2015 majority mandate.
More dangerously, this arbitrary action which involves to quote Shakespeare’s Richard the III’s opening monologue, a dangerous induction, constitutes a blatant violation of the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, and the corruption of the social contract which he swore to uphold and protect.
Article 42(1)(4) of the Constitution holds that the President shall appoint the MP who in his opinion, “is most likely to command the confidence of the Parliament”. As the Bar Association of Sri Lanka puts it, there is no impediment on the President forming an opinion and even though a citizen may challenge the President’s appointment in the Supreme Court, Article 4(c) on the judicial power and the people’s sovereignty provides an exception to judicial intervention when it comes to the privileges, immunities and powers of the Parliament and its Members and therefore, how the latter premise affects the matter at hand concerning the appointment of Rajapaksa remains a question. However, the President cannot appoint a MP as the Prime Minister when there is a sitting Premier. He can do so only if the sitting Prime Minister is removed.
Article 46(2) holds that the Premier will be in office unless he resigns in writing to the President or ceases to be a MP. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on the same day stated that he was and is still the Prime Minister.
Further, the Constitution makes numerous references to such persons holding high office being unable to function in office owing to physical incapacity or being declared mentally unsound or having a conviction for moral turpitude or if that person’s civic rights have been revoked. These are the only grounds for the Prime Minister’s removal. Wickremesinghe has suffered neither and nor is he guilty of either.
It is true that Sirisena’s initial appointment of Wickremesinghe, as per an agreement between the duo pre-8 January 2015 was unconstitutional as the latter did not at the time command the confidence of the legislature but two wrongs don’t make a right, plus Wickremesinghe has since faced and survived a no-confidence/faith motion. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Wickremesinghe has the numbers and commands the confidence of the House. Article 42(1) states that the Cabinet of Ministers (maximum of 30 Cabinet Ministers and a maximum of Deputy and State Ministers of 40) is responsible for the direction and control of the Government. A national Government as per Articles 46(3)(4) and 46(3)(5) is where a recognized political party or independent group which together with other recognized political parties or independent groups obtains the highest number of seats. It is therefore Rajapaksa who will have to show his numbers when the Parliament sits next.
On the other hand, a MP can as per Article 38(2)(iv) write to the Speaker, give notice of a resolution of impeachment , alleging misconduct or corruption involving the abuse of the powers on the part of the office of the President. If the resolution is signed by a two thirds majority of the entire Parliament, then the Speaker has to submit it to the Supreme Court for inquiry. If however, half of the whole legislature has signed it, then the Speaker should be satisfied in person that the allegation warrants an inquiry by the apex Court. If the Court finds in the affirmative, the Parliament has to vote with a two thirds majority of the entire Parliament to pass the said resolution of impeachment. This arduous measure has not been invoked.
What has happened however is that the President as per the powers vested in him through Article 33(2)(c) has prorogued the Parliament. This means that the ungodly hour of horse trading is at hand and already crossovers have taken place from the UNP to the Sirisena/Rajapaksa faction.
Executive President Sirisena has shown his true ‘plots have I laid’ face akin to that of Richard the III – ‘subtle, false and treacherous’. In this context, nothing other than the fate of democracy is at stake. The solution: dissolve the Parliament and declare a General/Parliamentary Election.