President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s statement that his verbal orders must be considered as circulars coming from the “Executive President” will have adverse implications for the public sector and for governance.
“For government to function efficiently and smoothly, there is always a set of laws, regulations, rules and procedures. These are referred to as ‘written law’. Imagine a public officer in Hambantota who acts according to a written circular and is issued a charge sheet saying that he should have acted in accordance with a verbal order to the contrary issued by the President while on an inspection tour in Vavuniya. Is the Public Service Commission to find the officer guilty of violating the President’s verbal order? When the PSC’s disciplinary order is challenged in the Supreme Court in a fundamental rights application, will the Supreme Court apply the circular or the President’s verbal order?” a retired Ministry Secretary told Colombo Telegraph on the condition of anonymity.
The former Secretary said that the President appears to be under the assumption that as President, he can give verbal orders which have the force of law. It was in the time of the Kings that whatever emanated from his mouth was unchallengeable law. Law was what the King said. Is this the President’s notion of the rule of law?