2 July, 2022


Five Ways The Rajapaksas Hijacked Parliament

By Niranjan Rambukwella –

The composition of Parliament today is not what voters intended it to be in 2010. By allowing cross-overs, the voter’s primary choice – his or her choice of party – has been denied. This is because Sri Lanka has a proportional system of representation. This means that the number of seats a party obtains is roughly proportionate to the number of votes it obtains in elections. However, the executive and the courts have distorted this principle, and thus the public’s will. In general elections, voters first vote for a party, they then record preferences for candidates from that party. But candidates are allowed to cross-over, even though they have been selected first on the basis of their party.

MR71612aThe legislature cannot effectively check and scrutinize the executive. 47 percent of MPs[1] are ministers (or monitoring MPs) and are thus part of the executive. They are bound by convention to vote with the government, and also by the convention of collective responsibility which means they cannot scrutinize the executive and hold it to account. In other words, Parliament has become a rubber stamp for Cabinet. This is why in the UK no more than one-sixth of MPs may be part of the executive.[2]

The committee system is largely dysfunctional. The committees are where the real business of parliament is transacted: bills are debated, ministries are held to account and implementation is checked First, there are too many committees and too few backbenchers – if almost half the Parliament is comprised of ministers, then each backbencher is unable to perform his scrutinizing function effectively. Second, the chairmen of the two most important committees – the Public Accounts Committee and the COPE – are ministers. The UK convention is that the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is member of the opposition, and certainly not a member of the executive.

The President can also take over ministries, making them largely unaccountable to Parliament. So much so that now 40 percent of the budget is controlled by the President, who I need not remind you, is subject to legal immunity. He is also not a member of the house, and thus cannot be held to account through its processes – i.e. debate and the committee system. For example, ministers are asked questions and compelled to explain their decisions in consultative committees; the President who is minister for many critical ministries – defence, law and order, finance, ports, highways etc – never attends consultative committee meetings.

Finally, the President has tremendous power over Parliament as he can dissolve it as his pleasure: he or she “may, from time to time, by Proclamation summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament”[3].  This over mighty power, along with the other tremendous powers the executive president wields, were supposed to be balanced by Parliament’s power to impeach the President: but try getting an impeachment past Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, the President’s brother.

[1] 106 senior ministers, ministers, deputy ministers, project ministers and monitoring MPs

[2] http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN03378.pdf

[3] http://www.priu.gov.lk/Cons/1978Constitution/Chapter_11_Amd.html

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Latest comments

  • 2

    … And this is what passes for Democracy in Sri Lanka?

  • 3

    This should reach the websites not banned by the govt.
    This should be translated into Sinhala and Tamil.

  • 2

    Dear Mr. Rambukwella:
    Now there are 111 ministers. With the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the Deputy Chairman of Committees, it is over half the number of MPs.
    Even in India (like in UK’s one sixth as you state) number of ministers cannot be more than 17% of total number (more or less one sixth the total.)
    Radhakrishnan of CWC was made a Deputy Minister suddenly after the Uva polls. It is not because the government was in need of another Deputy Minister but sheer manipulation – a carrot to CWC. CWC got three members elected from Badulla to UVA PC. CWC demanded two PC ministerial posts. If that’s granted that leaves only two other ministerial posts for UPFA and allies in both districts. Weerawansa too demanded one ministry for his member from Moneragala. UPFA was willing to give only one ministerial post to CWC. So to calm down the CWC, Radhakrishnan was made a Deputy Minister and that was to avoid CWC members supporting a UNP regime in UVA which very well could have happened. Three CWC members are in a position to tilt the balance of Uva PC. This is why no ministers to Uva PC are appointed so far. It is still a headache for the UPFA not knowing what the CWC members would do and it is still an unsolved issue.
    Although there is legislation that an MP crossing from one party to another party looses his/her seat, due to then CJ Sarath N. Siva’s stupid judgement (to help Chandrika)that piece of legislation has became nullified (non operative.) India too has such law and to the credit of its Supreme Court (no Sarath N. Silva there) the law is strictly implemented.
    During the short-lived UNP regime in 2002-2004 the UNP allowed the opposition to hold the chairmanship of CAC and COPE. But Rajapaksa government did not willing for such. Wanting to have control of each and everything.
    In the U.S. no President or the Congress could manipulate the dates of elections. Although the U.S. Constitution is a tiny document, it stipulates that elections should be held on “first Tuesday and first Monday in November.” every other year. However, Presidential elections are held every four years and the elections on November 4 this year is called mid-term elections. So it has to be a date between 2-7 November of an even numbered year. The other feature is that all elections required in that particular year is held on the same day, and some times a voter has to vote for many positions such as President (every other election), House of Representatives, Senate (1/3 States), State Governors (1/2 States), Members of State Legislatures, District Attorneys, and where applicable Marshals, Sheriffs, Mayors, Local Government Boards, Education Boards, etc. and a whole heap of other positions.
    No one gets undue advantage in this manner and massive amounts of money are saved as it’s done and finished on one day. We too should have such a system.

  • 2

    When JRJ introduced Executive Presidency, the Legislature did not have CRIMINALS and he completely ignored the fact what the consequences be if one day a power crazy lunatic creep into that position. Today the Legislature is full of CRIMINALS and they do what they are good at. God save former Democratic Sri Lanka.

  • 2

    How do you know JRJ’s parliament did not have criminals ?

    JRJ started it. This president excels in it.

  • 2

    Mahinda Rajapakse and his government has hijacked the whole country and have created mechanisms to collect their ransom. They have made bad governance a fine art and are shamelessly trying to sell it as a model for the rest of the world.

    They are manifestations of a made to failed democracy, where the society is degraded to ensure the election of lumpen elements to high office . Lumpen values and methods have increasingly become the hall mark of governance in this country and this have reached their pinnacle under MR.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 1

    Mahinda Rajapakse gave to Sri Lanka no previous Presidents or PrimeMinisters had ever been able to give- peace, real independence without falling into the debt-trap of the West, an enlarged diplomatic relations with developed and developing countries in Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

    This President enhanced the status of Sri Lanka from a lower income to middle income country. He completely renovated the infrastructure of Sri Lanka bringing in par with all developed countries. He took loans and used them for the development of the Country. He increased the GDP of the Country. The people in the country despite complaints are having a far better living condition than many people in developing countries.

    So What is the problem ?

    If the President has hijached the Parliament as you say he has shown positive results from such hijacking. If this President is to change Sri Lanka will loose all what it has gained.

    As we do not know on what conditions Ranil Wickramasinghe has negotiated with the Tamil Diaspora , to get the EU to remove the LTTE from the list of terrorist groups, and issue restrictions on purchase of fish from Sri Lanka, we may expect the worst from a change of regime in Sri Lanka. Ranil Wickramasinghe in order to get the Tamil votes may have even promised a separate Eelam State in the North. Therefore, the Sri Lankans who habitually criticise President Mahinda Rajapakse and his government should think twice carrying out a campaign against him, as Sri Lanka and its people of all communities stand to loose if Ranil Wickramasinghe becomes the puppet President of the West.

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