27 November, 2020

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President Needs To Limit Opposition In Government 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The issue of the Leader of the Opposition’s position once again came to the fore when it was brought up in parliament last week by TNA leader R Sampanthan. This issue seem to have been resolved when Speaker Karu Jayasuriya issued a ruling earlier this month that the UPFA’s Mahinda Rajapaksa would be the opposition leader. Parliament, the media and majority opinion seem to have taken this decision in their stride as the right and proper one. Certainly the UPFA is much larger in numbers than the TNA, both in parliament and outside parliament, and more vociferous in their opposition to whatever the government is doing.

However, until the breakdown of the UNP-SLFP national government in October last year it was the TNA leader who held the opposition leader’s position. During the three years in which Mr Sampanthan held that position, the UPFA which included SLFP members was much larger than the TNA and more vociferous in its opposition. But during those three years, Speaker Jayasuriya ruled that the UPFA could not hold the Leader of the Opposition position as its main component party, the SLFP, was participating in a national government.

It was the breakdown of the UNP-SLFP national government that changed the equation for Speaker Jayasuriya. With the SLFP no longer in government he awarded the position of opposition leader to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa who was nominated to that position by the UPFA. But what may seem to be the correct decision to some, even though they be a majority, can be challenged as incorrect by others who may be in a minority. TNA leader Sampanthan’s speech in parliament points to the need for solutions to be found.

Protect Minorities 

Democratic governance is not only one of popular sentiment and what seems to be common sense. It is also about the rule of law and adherence to constitutional provisions. If democratic governance meant only catering to majority sentiment, President Maithripala Sirisena’s sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October last year would have been a reality. During the time of the political crisis, when the newly appointed prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was unable to secure a parliamentary majority and unwilling the step down, there was popular support for fresh general elections as the way out of the political deadlock that had set in.

However, the political deadlock was finally broken by the judiciary on the basis of their interpretation of the constitution and the rule of law. The main underlying issue at stake was the transfer of power from one government to another in conformity with the rule of law. The judiciary did not shirk its constitutional responsibility. It took the lead in taming the politicians who would run amok in both the executive and legislature. The TNA was one of the parties that filed legal action asking the courts to declare the president’s action in dissolving parliament to be unconstitutional. TNA leader Sampanthan’s position was that in matters of governance the constitution should be strictly followed.

In a like manner, on the issue of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Sampanthan has made it clear that the constitution should be followed. President Sirisena’s dual role as head of the cabinet and holder of three ministerial portfolios and more than 40 government departments, while his party member former president Mahinda Rajapaksa simultaneously leads the opposition is questionable. The TNA has also questioned the validity of those members of parliament, including Opposition leader Rajapaksa, who have taken membership of the SLPP which is not registered as a party represented in parliament. However, in the absence of a legal initiative in the courts, this situation is unlikely to change.

Ensuring adherence to law is of especial importance to those who are minorities. Whether they be ethnic, religious or social minorities, the view of minorities is less likely to be taken into consideration in situation involving political power. Due to their lesser numbers they have less voice. The opposition leader’s position was important to the Tamil minority because, in the absence of their willingness to join governments like members of other minorities, it gave them some limited but official access to the institutions of the state.

Challenge President 

In the course of his speech in parliament objecting to the change in the opposition leader, Mr Sampanthan referred to an article written by Dr. Nihal Jayawickrema, that “Under the Constitution the President is the Head of the Government. Of his own choice Maithiripala Sirisena is also the President of SLFP and the UPFA which is a coalition of likeminded political parties that includes the SLFP. Mahinda Rajapaksa who claims to be member of the SLFP /UPFA is reportedly now the Leader of the opposition. Therefore, Parliament is entitled to ask the President to explain how he can concurrently serve as Head of the Government and as Head of the Opposition and whether he does not understand that functioning simultaneously in both capacities is a gross violation of the fundamental democratic basis of the Constitution”.

On the other hand, Speaker Jayasuriya, making a special statement in response to the matters raised by TNA Leader R. Sampanthan on the Opposition Leader’s post, said that a remedy to the issue could not be found within the confines of the present Constitution and the Standing Orders. He said, “In my ruling, delivered on 08th January 2019, I have not in detail touched upon the subject of conflict of interest pointed out by Sampanthan. The recognition of MP Mahinda Rajapaksa was not consequent upon any request from the UPFA General Secretary, but because of the age old convention of this House that the Speaker should recognize the Leader of the Parliamentary Group of the recognized Political Party having the largest number of Members sitting in the Opposition, as the Leader of the Opposition.”

However, the political reality is that the power of numbers lies with the UPFA as against the TNA. In addition, President Sirisena is presently working in close cooperation with former president Rajapaksa. The current arrangement where the duo control the commanding heights of both the government and opposition is too advantageous for them to give up. President Sirisena’s visit to Singapore in which he took members of the SLFP with him as part of his official entourage brings the opposition into governance. This is the contradiction that TNA leader Sampanthan has shown, which needs to be changed.

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  • 4
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    One notes that the most pertinent rebuttal made by the Hon Speaker has been omitted by Jehan, who regurgitates the erroneous arguments.

    “The fact that the executive President belongs to a party, which is not the majority party in Parliament to which the Prime Minister belong is not a new experience or a situation in our country. There was time when D.B. Wijetunga was the President in our country, during which time Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was the Prime Minister. At the relevant time, Gamini Dissanayake followed by Ranil Wickremesinghe both of whom belonged to the UNP had been recognized as the Leader of the Opposition. During the said period, DB Wijetunga held several ministerial portfolios including Minister of Defence and Minister of Buddhasasana. Then again, during the presidency of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister and Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Mahinda Rajapaksa served as the Leader of the Opposition. At a particular rime, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga held several ministerial portfolios including Minister of Defence, Minister of Mass Communication and Minister of Interior.

    Therefore it is quite clear that this is not a new phenomenon and this situation has arisen in the past as well.

    According to provisions envisaged in the Constitution to elect the executive President and constituting legislature, I may say that this will not be the last occasion that the party from which the Executive President is elected becomes the main opposition party in Parliament. It is the right of the President to hold any ministerial portfolio, subject to any qualification that the Constitution may impose and if such exercise of his or her right is going to deny the Party having the second largest number of Members in Parliament sitting in the opposition and who is not a party to a national government in functioning as the main opposition party I am of the view that this would deny that Party of its legitimate rights to enjoy all privileges of an Opposition Party including its parliamentary leader being recognized as the Leader of the Opposition.

    Cont..

    • 5
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      Part 2
      I would further state that if some Members of a party in the opposition decide on their own to join the government by accepting some portfolios, such action cannot deny the rest of the membership of the said party from functioning as an opposition party. This would be a serious violation of the rights of the rest of the members of the party sitting in the Opposition. Hence I cannot accept the contention of R Sampanthan MP the fact that if some Members choose to join the Government while officially the party remaining as an opposition party the said should be accepted as a recognized party in the opposition.

      Even though R Sampanthan MP strives to draw a parallel between the House of Commons of the United Kingdom and Parliament of Sri Lanka, such a parallel cannot be drawn for the reason that the United Kingdom parliament is constituted on the Westminster Model of Parliament and the Sri Lankan Constitution provides for an Executive President elected by the people who is the Head of the Executive and also the Head of the Government. The Constitution does not preclude the President from appointing a Member from an Opposition Party as a Cabinet Minister. In such a situation to deny a Party its right to function as an Opposition party cannot be accepted.”

      • 7
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        Bogus Dr – Fart 1 and 2 is good entertainment! BTW when are you returning to meet Ranil Sir?

        • 5
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          Dr. JP: why not ask Trumpland, which took Lanka to UNHRC, to try US citizen Gotabaya Rajapaksa, suspect no. 1 for War crimes in California?
          This would be a far quicker and easier solution and would bring much relief to Tamil and Muslim minorities communities that you care so much about., as it is highly symbolic to hold accountable the top war criminal. Also holding Gota accountable in US courts would be necessary for NON-RECURRENCE.
          So, Dr. Jehan ask your US embassy friends who fund your National Peace Council members lavish overseas trips and “research” on how to weaponize religion in Lanka to take in their LA citizen, Gota, at least for questioning as CIA has a big file on him?!!

          Also, only solution for long suffering Lankans, who are fed up of the UNP-SLFP-PP Bondscam Ranil-Sira-Mahinda Kleptocray is: at the next Presidential elections later this year for the JVP’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake to contest and win! But AKD who is silent about US bases in Trinco and planes flying into Bandaraniayke international airport seems to be also in the Trumpland honeypot!

          • 0
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            Kalinga: Forget about NGOs speaking truth to power! The NPC like other Trumpland funded Cinnamon Gardens NGOs are a big joke!

            Also, Jehan Perera is a thothe baba, he does not understand geopolitics. Please leave him alone so that he can continue writing crap.

      • 0
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        “One notes that the most pertinent rebuttal made by the Hon Speaker has been omitted by Jehan, who regurgitates the erroneous arguments. “The fact that the executive President belongs to a party, which is not the majority party in Parliament to which the Prime Minister belong is not a new experience or a situation in our country “
        As usual Thero’s argument “If I say something it is right but if you say the same thing it is wrong”. The most pertinent rebuttal made by Sampanthar was That “the matter was not questioned earlier, but now it is being questioned; so the Speaker has to act accordingly to the Law.“ It was the knowledge of entire Lankawe Modayas that Speaker wanted to give time to SLFP and Slap Party to alter documents about the membership of Old King. After they altered the parties’ records, Speaker took off from parliament and asked assistant to confirm his decisions. He had no gut to face the members who were questioning him of his illegal act. Though parties did the illegal alteration, which was purported to defeat the constitution, records of witness could not be revoked. Speaker lost the credibility for being the Speaker of the house by supporting political parties maneuvering illegal operation to defeat the purpose of constitution. That was violating the minority parties’ rights.

        “ Hence I cannot accept the contention of R Sampanthan MP the fact that if some Members choose to join the Government while officially the party remaining as an opposition party the said should be accepted as a recognized party in the opposition. “ This why, in the past three years, we called Denish faction of UPFA as “Joint Comedy Club”. But now Thero is once again changing his position and supporting our stance on that. ****** See this bellow too.

      • 0
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        “ United Kingdom parliament is constituted on the Westminster Model of “ Thero need to read the1978 constitution before write comments on that. Constitution explicitly differs from Thero’s opinion. It is requesting to follow Westminster model when there are gaps.
        “ I may say that this will not be the last occasion that the party from which the Executive President is elected becomes the main opposition party in Parliament. It is the right of the President to hold any ministerial portfolio,”
        Thero is probably changing his earlier stance here. What he is saying that in the next EP election no Slap Party candidate or SLFP candidate can win. This was our repeated question in all his, earlier, promotional essays of Slap Party. We repeatedly asked how he was expecting any SLFP or Slap Party Candidate can win. It may not just in the next election, if Slap Party remains as a candidate for in any of the future EP elections, in all those election UNP is pre-selected. This is how Ranil shot down two EPs with one arrow. Further Thero is trying to say that Slap Party would be winning the parliamentary election. But we don’t think so. In the last LG election Loony New King defeated UNP. But in the August 2020 he will defeat Slap Party. When Slap Party and SLFP were together, they could not defeat UNP in August 2015. So it is extremely a slim chance they defeat UNP, even if they form an alliance. Chandrika factor is hanging sword to Old Royals in SLFP. There is no loyal MP in SLFP for New King. Either they are with Old King or CBK. New King’s existence in SLFP is over. So we need to see how an alliance can be forged in an election.

      • 0
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        Democratic constitution, irrelevant of whether Westminster model or US model or any other hybrid model, it should exhibit democratic properties. The strength of the democracy is established by two groups functioning in that structure, one as ruling and the other as opposition. By norm, opposition would be questioning on all ruling party operations, finding fault on anything the government doing and will be keep opposing it. Faults need not to be established before or after questioning. The question is welcomed for ruling party to carry out self-checks. This is viewed as inherited weakness of the system too. In Lankawe system, EP is an internal man/woman. So he can explain to public what is he doing and why was he doing, but it is pointless he question himself, “After all why did I do this?” So in Lankawe system there is no way a president’s party can participate fully fledged in opposition. The explanation Thero wants to give it CBK did it, so he wants to do it, too. If just because Wijeyahtunga did it or CBK did it, a wrong thing or illegal thing never get established as custom. A custom get established as earliest or the first way, when a thing can be done in more one way under all proper methods.
        The acid test here in if New King functioning as ruling party man or opposition party man. When SLFP had National Unity agreement, New King functioned as opposition member and kept disturbing all Yahapalanaya was trying doing. Now, when SLFP has become official opposition, he had taken all control under his hand controlling the government as ruling party man.
        ****** By Thero’s argument, Old King as one single individual has taken a different position and it has to recognize by ruling government. If Thero is putting that argument, then Old King does not have the backup of all the SLFP members. Further by virtue of President is in government, Ranil has the de facto unity government and authorized to have more than 30 ministers.

  • 4
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    Although Sampanthan was the Leader of the Opposition, did he ever behave like the Leader of the Opposition? Leader of the Opposition should represent all the people who are opposed to the Government. Sampanthan, while he was the Leader of the Opposition represented only Demala people. Never talked the problems of Sinhalayo. All the time he kept on repeating the Mantra ‘Tamil Problem; Tamil Problem’ as if Sinhalayo have no problems.

    • 6
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      American Eagle eye,
      US Peace Corps Bot to weaponize religion and ethnicity to Divide and distract Lankan people from Trumpland’s vicious agenda to spread corruption, debt and asset strip and set up US bases in Lanka with help of puppet Bondscam Ranil , just SHUT UP!
      Go back to US and splay your racism in Trumpland

      • 0
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        I don’t think Eagle eye to be a western agent. Sinhale, Sinhala Desahay are the correct terms. Sri lanka are terms given by our Corrupt and greedy politicians. JEhan Pereira is there to protect his interests.

  • 3
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    Jehan Perera: Do you remember how your Boss blamed ZIMBABWE saying MUGABE did not have Opposition and that was not democratic. Now you say something different. How come.

  • 2
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    Ranil even at present is a FRAUDSTER. Why does he have 75 ministereal portfolios, ADHEEKSHNA minister poster to every MP. He hired even outsoders as more NATIONAL LIST MPs. Now, he says he will hire TNA, JVP, all the muslim and three wheeler parties to produce the NATIONAL GOVT. WHY HE IS FOOLING HIS DUMB UNP CARD HOLDERS. jEHAN pERERA: SOMETHING TO YOU SAY HAS HAPPENED IN brazil. CHAVEZ died with an unknown cause but drinking Polonium cocktail, I suppose, given by the opposition. Now the country is not doing well. The new president has to what USA says. I am pretty sure, there is a JEHAN PERERA there too.

    • 0
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      ” CHAVEZ died with an unknown cause but drinking Polonium cocktail, I suppose, given by the opposition. ”

      Softy,

      Don’t play with Russia’s patent. Otherwise you too will be given a dose of it.

  • 2
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    The next government has a lot of things to correct. The main thing is the constitution which is too complicated for an ordinary citizen to understand what it is. When the primary law of the country is not clear, what can you expect from the rest. For instance, the number 1 problem is the election of representatives.
    There, the number of seats in parliament should be reduced to 199. There should be 175 seats for MPs who should be elected by the majority vote of the constituency. Here, at least, people will know who their member of Parliament is. And the people will get a chance to elect or reject him/her depending on his/her service/dedication/honesty/knowledge and experience. Proportional representative system should be limited only to parties like the JVP that can not win even a single seat. Since their voice is important, we need to accommodate them too. However, that should also be limited to 5 seats maximum (one seat per every 100,000 votes cast at a given election).The list should be for the educated, experienced, and capable people who have not contested the same election.
    MPs elected or non elected can not switch parties; if they do so, they should face a by-election to prove that people who elected him/her approve his/her decision to switch. Non-elected members can resign if they can not work for the party that he/she was chosen through the list.
    Any political party that includes the above proposals for parliamentary reforms in its manifesto would get my vote at future elections!

    • 0
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      Take TNA and see, TNA has a seat for every 15,000 voters or less.

  • 0
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    America tried to make opposition leader of Brazil the president leaving behind elected president MAduro behind. Not only that, TRUMP issued an ultimatum to MADURO saying saying donot touch anyone of ours including the president that TRUMP appointed. KARU JAYASOORIYA is one like that. I think Mangala Samaraweera is one working behind. Recently after the SENA caterpillar disaster, MANGALA Samraweera was with HARRISON, the minister for Agriculture”. Mangala is a doubkle agent. I think he is taking some revenge from Srilanka and from Rajapakses.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 0
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    This mockery of the Sri Lankan Parliament rules and regulations commenced with the 19 amendment after 2015. The 19 amendment was brought to curtail Rajapakses and enhance the position of RW, and UNF to govern the country with the assistance of TNA and JVP. In fact, TNA was not, in reality, working as the opposition. They were parcel and part of the UNF government. It was a conspiracy hatched by the UNF, TNA and some MPs of the SLFP and JVP.

    I think the opinion expressed by Dayan Jayathilake provide the correct interpretation.

  • 0
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    I have translated Jehan Perera’s article into Tamil for the benefit of Tamil readership. It is a sober analysis of the current situation. Those who complain about TNA’s lack of criticism about the government must resign to the fact that the Head of the State and Head of the Government and the Opposition leader comes from the same party!

    http://nakkeran.com/index.php/2019/01/30/his-is-the-contradiction-that-tna-leader-sampanthan-has-shown-which-needs-to-be-changed-jehan-perera/

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