The offer opposition parliamentarians called a “historic pledge” to support the Government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic if Parliament was reconvened has been viciously spurned by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who called the joint opposition letter last week a “petty attempt to gain political mileage” setting the stage for a major showdown between the Executive and the Legislature in the next few weeks.
Some parliamentarians claim that the June 20th election date invalidates the Presidential Proclamation dissolving Parliament, since the president’s power to dissolve parliament is strictly constitutionally contingent on the new Parliament meeting within three months of dissolution. This deadline expires on June 2nd.
The President’s vehement rejection of the opposition offer could result in the matter being settled in the courts, sources told Colombo Telegraph. In anticipation of defiance from legislators, President Rajapaksa on April 23rd moved the military into the Parliamentary premises for “extra security”.
In a reply to the historic offer of assistance to the Government signed by all parties and formations in the Opposition which is currently the House Majority, the President made it clear he was doubling down on his decision not to “reconvene the old Parliament” and could set the stage for a major showdown between the two branches of Government.
In a particularly high-handed move the letter was signed by President’s Secretary P.B. Jayasundera and not the president himself. The reply was addressed to Sajith Premadasa, the former Leader of the Opposition.
“The President wishes me to inform you that what is to be observed from this letter is that the parties signing this letter do not believe the election is necessary, are seeking petty political mileage at a time when the whole state machinery is geared towards fighting COVID and shows no gratitude for the government service, tri forces and police who are trying to curb the spread of the virus,” Jayasundera’s reply on behalf of President Rajapaksa noted.
As if to precipitate a legal showdown, the letter from the President’s secretary adds:
It has been confirmed that the Proclamation dissolving Parliament is valid from the fact that all the signatories to the letter have accepted that parliament is currently dissolved”.
In his reply the President said “no situation had arisen that necessitates reconvening Parliament under Article 70 (7) of the Constitution”, the emergency provision the framers included to ensure Parliament could be recalled to enact laws or pass emergency funding in the event of a major crisis in the country.
Separately, the President’s Secretary also replied a letter to President Rajapaksa from former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera who warned earlier this week that it was imperative to have essential Government expenditure including the payment of public servant salaries legally approved after April 30, 2020 legally and constitutionally.
Secretary Jayasundera replying the letter from Samaraweera said that Article 150 (3) of the constitution allows the President to withdraw monies from the Treasury up to three months after the new Parliament is set to meet if no budget has been passed for the year. The president blamed Samaraweera for rejecting Government attempts to get further appropriations passed and expressed his disappointment that “a neo liberal” senior politician like Samaraweera was not taking the lead to make sure elections are held and the people’s right of franchise is not exercised.
Samaraweera slammed the reply on Twitter saying the letter was “koheda yanne malle pol”. “Again, I say article 150(3) does not give a blank cheque to the President. He can only allocate money for 3 months from the “date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.”What is the date for the new Parliament to be summoned?” the former Finance Minister tweeted.
But President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s response to Samaraweera indicates that his Government is going to utilize public funds illegally no matter how long it takes for a new Parliament to meet in light of the corona virus situation. The Government is also entering into foreign loan contracts, ignoring specific provisioins of the constitution that stipulates that any foreign borrowings must be sanctioned by Parliament within one month of the loan agreement being signed. Since elections will not even be held a month from now, and possibly delayed further given spiralling infection numbers, the Government has already violated this constitutional condition for foreign borrowings.
The Vote on Account passed before the November 2019 presidential election runs out on April 30. The Government cannot legally withdraw funds from the Treasury without having the appropriations legally passed by Parliament which has full control over public finance according to the Constitution. In his letter Samaraweera warned that anyone violating the constitution was liable to have his civic rights revoked for up to seven years and forfeit of personal property.
By 29 April according to Central Bank data the Treasury had borrowed 821.35 billion rupees through via primary auctions and a loan from the China Development Bank. This amounts to more than 100 million rupees more than the borrowing limit set by Parliament in 2019, which was Rs 721 billion. Economists told Colombo Telegraph that this is the first time in Sri Lankan history that the country’s borrowing limit set by Parliament has been breached.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made a desperate attempt to have this borrowing limit increased before he dissolved Parliament in March, but the opposition refused to support the move unless certain conditions were met about how the monies were to be utilized.
His Government has also begun talks with the IMF to obtain rapid financing, another loan that will require Parliamentary sanction. The IMF says it has already begun to review the request. It is unclear if the foreign lender will agree to dole out the financing without the necessary parliamentary approvals. (By Chinthika de Silva)
SJ / May 1, 2020
“The offer opposition parliamentarians called a “historic pledge” to support the Government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic if Parliament was reconvened…”
The condition “if Parliament was reconvened” is rather immature.
What will the opposition do if (and very probably so) the offer is turned down? Will they obstruct?
The opposition parties could have been a few steps ahead of the government by doing mass political work in conducting their own programme to protect people.
Sadly it is all about elections.
leelagemalli / May 1, 2020
However, Sri Lanka as a nation and our nation as a nation cannot confront this crisis for the first time in the US or in neighboring India. This is because they are federal states and Sri Lanka is a democratic unitary state.
When discussing the situation between the summoning of parliament and non-recurrent expenditure, it is understood that the cost of shutting down the government is high. The closure of the government for 35 days from midnight on December 21, 2018, to January 25, 2019, has resulted in a net loss of US $ 3 billion to the economy.
leelagemalli / May 1, 2020
Not former Singapore PM, but Gotler is not good enough to be compared to the domestic dog of Li Quan yu.
Low lives of SLPP – just spread lies about the request made by opposition… the opposition men would not want their salaries… but to protect the democratic rights.
Mallaiyuran / May 1, 2020
“The condition “if Parliament was reconvened” is rather immature.”
Does this matured PhD proof fessor is having capacity to under the difference between a condition to perform some thing and the description of an environment of a different scenario?
The opposition is saying if the parliament is opened they want to go and help the government in fighting Codiv-19 . This educated dummy is interpreting it as if the Government opened the parliament only opposition is willing approve the fiance bill otherwise it will reject.
I wounder who was this Badiyudeen PhD’s English teacher.
SJ / May 2, 2020
The drug menace in action again and again and again.
BTW, Imodium is available for purchase over the counter or online.
Mallaiyuran / May 2, 2020
If you have been wearing at least a diaper, need not be underwear or Amude, you might have, by this time put water in a coconut shell and have committed suicide.
Hand around here, we teach you enough so you can stand in front a group of underwear wearing matured students and give them a lecture on Lankawe shameless politics.
leelagemalli / May 1, 2020
A Prof. Forensic Researcher has proved that COVID-19 patients deaths cant transmit the disease further to anyone. Meaning … their pathological experience in the lab has shown, COVID 19 virus is no means a killer virus. The prof confirmed that only elderly could die easily than the younger ones. It is solely dependent on the immunity of the infected.
And also it is very important that those who are counted as deaths in Italy, Spain many other countries, are all not COVID 19 patients. Any elderly person could easily die by an influ. This is what many physicians discuss today.
Sunil Abeyratne / May 1, 2020
To The Editor,
I wonder if the title is misleading simply because the parliament remains dissolved and there can be no showdown with an institution that is not yet elected.
leelagemalli / May 1, 2020
If we may remind you – the situation is new – and highly unexpected.
How the President has to react in such an unexpected situation – is well highlighted in the CONSTITUTION.
Besides, ours is not a parliment that was governed without a “CONSTITUTION”. We are not British to emanate them – almost 60% of lankens are uncivilized bastards, that would not respect any norms. So how can we let govern the most known high criminals to ruin this nation again ?
If a president SWORN in being adhered to the constitution, he has no other options but to respect the paragraphs as is given in it.
We the PEOPLE of this country, regardless of our geographical locations where we are right now – would not agree with ” MEDAMULALANA JUNGLE LAWS” – shameful to let oldest democracy in Asia to fall on to the levels of Zimbabwe…
Mallaiyuran / May 2, 2020
You may have to understand the “title” from your words. . ” the parliament remains dissolved ” That is the showdown. Parliament (the opposition, incidentally, that is the majority) has not accepted that notion. EP will have to establish his superiority either by going to SC or by using the Rapist Army, the way Siri Mao crushed ITAK’s non obedience protest (1961).
Still I am not contributing the theory of “Showdown or Show up” depending on Ranil, Hakeem, Sumanthiran, Vaalaththodam like chameleon. They say in Tamil don’t get into river depending on clay a horse. As soon as it gets into the river, the horse will go dissolved. I don’t how many minister posts Hakeem and Sumanthiran has negotiated with Old King and what is the format of the National Unity Government Sampanthar, Ranil and King are taking about, through the back door.
Sunil Abeyratne / May 3, 2020
Thank you your observations. I have attempted to provide another perspective, which, I hope, does not invalidate your observations.
You may have to understand the “title” from your words. . ” the parliament remains dissolved ” That is the showdown.
%% From the President’s perspective, there is no showdown – parliament is yet to be elected and the matter ends there.
Parliament (the opposition, incidentally, that is the majority) has not accepted that notion.
%% The acceptance or the non-acceptance by previous MPs is of no consequence because the dissolution of the parliament has been provided for, in the Constitution.
EP will have to establish his superiority either by going to SC
%% Purely from the President’s perspective, seeking a determination from the Supreme Court on the purported violation of the Constitution based on the non-feasibility of holding elections arising out of COVID-19 is not in his interest and hence, the President would be content with the status quo until such time that there is a ruling from the Supreme Court requiring the reconvening of the parliament. I am unable to comment any further because I have absolutely no knowledge of the applicable law.
or by using the Rapist Army, the way Siri Mao crushed ITAK’s non obedience protest (1961).
SJ / May 1, 2020
Such things are not rare to CT.
Buddhist1 / May 1, 2020
Who can respect a letter from a person who was charged by the courts for high crimes. That is P. B. Jayasundera. Why is the opposition even acknowledging his letter. They should return the letter back to sender saying that they do not recognize the authority of a person who is a crook. This would be a clean civil disobedience of an illegal appointment.
Buddhist1 / May 2, 2020
Rajapakses and their 40 thieves.
sanipa / May 1, 2020
With the opposition in disarray and people following the government what show down can you expe
Mallaiyuran / May 1, 2020
PBJ has very eloquently and very clearly have said King is willing to operate without parliament; constitutional barriers on this is irreverent. PBJ is saying the day all predict waiting to come tomorrow has arrived today.
Can somebody do me favor? Indians cannot do this because they are drinking cow urine to cure their Covid-19. Can you please check how many Chinese atomic submarines are luring under Hangbangtota harbor waters?
Jeyaweva to Mother Wildlife Sanctuary, SinhaLE Lankawe!
Raj-UK / May 2, 2020
GR was democratically elected, unlike other military style dictators who seize power in a coup, but his understanding of governing a country is probably the same, that is, by a military junta. Such people fear an uprising by the public as poverty levels rise & the only way to remain in power is by fear & intimidation (hence the military), muzzling the free press & false propaganda. Germany had the ‘fuhrer’, much adored by the public before the country was devastated in the second world war & North Korea has the ‘dear leader’, worshipped by the masses as the saviour of the nation & its people. We also seem to have a similar leader in the making who will get us through the economic chaos brought about by the Corona pandemic.
The Corona pandemic is a god send for GR to legitimise his military regime & authoritarian rule. My few SL friends, who are relatively affluent, tells me that everybody is happy with the curfew, the discomfort of being confined to the house is a small price to pay considering how well the virus is controlled, unlike in developed countries. Maybe my friends are unaware that in the absence of vaccine for the virus, it is the strength of the immune system that keeps the grim reaper away, therefore, developed countries have taken a more practical & sensible way of a ‘lockdown’ where non essential travel & gathering of people is prohibited while the older people & those with underlying health issues, who are the most vulnerable, are advised to self quarantine in order to slow down the spreading of the virus.