15 October, 2019

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Ranil Holding On To Power Is Unconstitutional & Undemocratic 

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

The present turn of events undoubtedly is not ideal for the country, but perhaps inevitable. If the UNP could have changed the leader, Ranil Wickremasinghe, as he was straying away from democratic norms and interests of the country, it would have been a better option, much earlier than the present. However, that was unfortunately not the situation given the poor internal democracy within our political parties. Equally worrying is the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister, although it is constitutional.   

The following was what a defiant UNP MP and a State Minister, Vasantha Senanayake, has told the Daily Mirror (27 October).  

It is with relief that I welcome the change of a most shameless and selfish man that ruined the great party built by my ancestors and damaged seriously, the wellbeing of our motherland. I pledge my support to the Prime Minister and congratulate the President for his wisdom.” 

Failures of Ranil as PM 

There were three major instances where Ranil Wickremesinghe should have resigned and allowed another leader from the UNP to become the PM. But he didn’t. First was the bond scam where he was directly implicated with his friend Mahendran. Second was when the UNP under his leadership was roundly defeated island wide at local government elections. Third was the rejection of his proposal to sell the East Terminal of the Port of Colombo to India even without an insistence from India. 

In all these instances he held on to power under different excuses. Ambassador to China, Karunasena Kodituwakku, also recently revealed that the Hambantota Port was given to China even without their request or insistence. It was called a ‘debt-equity swap’ in Wickremasinghe’s parlance. He was apparently either working on an extremely strange economic theory or against the national interests of the country for some reason. 

While accusing the last government of taking excessive foreign loans, he has taken more loans than the previous government. Record of corruption is the same. The failure to hold elections on time has been the most damaging to the democratic system. President Sirisena is also culpable for these violations without taking necessary action previously. The ambiguous or diarchic 19th Amendment is one reason for this situation, whether it is done purposely or not. 

Questionable Democratic Credibility?  

Wickremesinghe cannot claim to be a democrat. If he is a ‘liberal,’ it is a strange variety. He has his skeletons in the Batalanda cupboard. He is quite equal to Mahinda Rajapaksa. The difference might be in the guts or public appeal. Now he questions the appointment of Rajapaksa as the PM, on the basis he was holding a majority in Parliament before. However he didn’t have any hesitation to swear in as the PM in January 2015, under similar circumstances. Was it democratic then? 

We all know that numbers in our parliamentary system are largely manipulated. The root of the defect is within the electoral system and in the rotten political culture. People had some hopes when they ousted MR in 2015. However, these hopes became largely dashed as RW started manipulating things for narrow political gains. The return of MR today is largely RW’s fault. 

People wanted a democratic 19th Amendment instead of the dictatorial 18th Amendment. To appease the demand, certain positive changes were enacted. But stealthily, autocratic elements were introduced. Strengthening the powers of the PM is not the answer to excessive powers of the President. That is what has been attempted, although not that successfully. The funniest aspect of our constitutional change is that it is the same Members of Parliament who enacted the 18th Amendment that endorsed the 19th Amendment overwhelmingly. 

People like Ranil Wickremesinghe knew the situation. Therefore, he manipulated the constitution, with the support of some naïve leftists. Constitutional amendments or changes should not be enacted to suit personalities. That is however what was done even in 1978 with Wickremesinghe’s connivance. At least, JR was in a position to go before the people and win a popular election. Wickremesinghe is not, or hesitant. That is why he changed the constitution to suit his circumstances through the 19th Amendment. 

Constitutionality of the Move?

Because of the ambiguous nature of the 19th Amendment, the decision to remove Wickremesinghe as the PM has now become a controversy. However, until this matter is settled amicably, or in the Supreme Court, the President’s decision has to be upheld. Otherwise, the country would plunge into unnecessary chaos. Wickremesinghe appears to claim he is the arbiter in deciding on the constitutional issue. He dismisses going before the Supreme Court. 

President has appointed Rajapaksa according to Article 42 (4) as follows, although some have argued that the President has taken the phrase ‘in his opinion’ too literally.                 

The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in the President’s opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.” 

It is now incumbent upon Rajapaksa to prove he has a majority in Parliament after 16 November as the Parliament is prorogued until then. The Speaker now grumbles that he was not consulted in proroguing Parliament, although it is not a constitutional requirement. 

The question still remains whether the removal of Wickremesinghe is constitutional. If the President has appointed a new PM, that implies that the incumbent is no more with or without informing in writing. That is how Wickremesinghe became the PM in January 2015 and no one raised the question of constitutionality then. However, this time the following letter has been issued to Wickremesinghe.   

While I had appointed you as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka as per the powers vested in me as the appointing authority in Article 42 (4) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, I hereby inform you that you have been removed from the office of the Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka with immediate effect under the powers vested me.”   

Under the powers vested in me’ is the key phrase. What are they? 

19th Amendment 

There is no question that many of the powers of the President are reduced under the 19th Amendment. However, nowhere it says he cannot remove the PM. There are two Articles where removal is mentioned directly and indirectly. 

First is Article 47 (2) which says “Notwithstanding the death, removal from office or resignation of the Prime Minister, during the period intervening between the dissolution of Parliament and the conclusion of the General Election, the Cabinet of Ministers shall continue to function with the other Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers as its members…” 

This is of course during the intervening period, as it is clear from above. However, this is a proof that the possibility of removal is still there even after the 19th Amendment. There is no hard and fast rule on this matter. 

Second is Article 48 (1) which says, “On the Prime Minister ceasing to hold office by death, resignation or otherwise, except during the period intervening between the dissolution of Parliament and the conclusion of the General Election, the Cabinet of Ministers shall, unless the President has in the exercise of his powers under Article 70, dissolved Parliament, stand dissolved…” 

This is about the circumstances under which the Cabinet of Ministers stand dissolved. At the same time, it implies other circumstances under which the PM ceases to hold office other than death and resignation. These could be the circumstances of appointment of a new PM under Article 42 (4), a successful no confidence motion in Parliament, defeat of a budget proposal or a direct removal by the President.    

Other Powers of the President 

It is a mistake to rely too much on the 19th Amendment or consider the 19th Amendment in isolation of other provisions of the constitution. Primary among them is Article 4 (b) which says, 

“4. The Sovereignty of the People shall be exercised and enjoyed in the following manner:… (b) the executive power of the People, including the defence of Sri Lanka, shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the People.”   

However much Wickremesinghe fans would like to believe otherwise, the reality or the constitutional position is that ‘sovereignty of the people in the executive sphere is held by the President.’ Therefore, the position of the PM is subordinate to the President, however much he is educated, westernized or competent in dealing with the ‘international community.’ I say this because, behind the conflict between the President and the PM, there are class and cultural aspects involved. 

Another mistake some of the Wickremesinghe biased constitutional interpreters are doing is trying to read too much into the 19th Amendment’s changes. For example, when the present Chapter VII is compared with the original constitution (1978), the changes may appear enormous. But still the powers of the President are considerable, unfortunately. For example Article 30 (1) still says, 

There shall be a President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, who is the Head of the State, the Head of the Executive and of the Government, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.” 

It is true that some of the functions of the President are formulated not as ‘powers’ but as ‘duties.’ Thus the moral initiative is strengthened. Among other matters, those include “to ensure that the Constitution is respected and upheld,”  to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament,” “to declare war and peace,” “to do all such acts and things, not inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution.” These are only some highlights.  

More importantly, “The President shall be responsible to Parliament for the due exercise, performance and discharge of his powers, duties and functions under the Constitution.” 

Therefore, the President is also duty bound to follow the majority decision of the Parliament when it commences on 16 November. For this to happen, the Speaker should remain independent despite his past party affiliation. That would be the crucial test of President’s controversial decision to remove Wickremesinghe and appoint Rajapaksa. More than the removal, the appointment of Rajapaksa is the controversial action which has to be justified through a majority in Parliament.   

Political Justification 

There are two main reasons given for the change or reshuffle of the government. First, the formal withdrawal of the UPFA/SLFP from the ‘national government’ after which the Cabinet may stand dissolved, under Article 46 (4 &5) and Article 48 (1), although the drafting of the conditions of the ‘national government’ is extremely sloppy, whether it was done purposely or not.  

Second is what the President has revealed yesterday as report by The Sunday Times (28 October), as follows.       

President Maithripala Sirisena said last night that the main reason he decided to form a new government with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was the plot to assassinate him. He claimed that the name of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka had surfaced during investigations by the Criminal Investigation Department, but it was suppressed due to political interference.” 

The above also may be the reason why the UPFA/SLFP withdrew from the ‘national government’ at this stage. The situation undoubtedly is a national security risk, if it is correct. Sarath Fonseka undoubtedly is a dubious character, with the backing of Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

The best for the country is for Wickremesinghe to go before Parliament, when it is convened,  and show that he is correct, but not by stubbornly holding on to power when he is constitutionally removed and replaced. But by proving the newly appointed Rajapaksa has no majority. Lust for power or naivety is not an alternative to patience or wisdom. Wickremesinghe should frankly ask the question himself, whether he has the support among the people in the country to challenge his removal.  

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    However moving forward we could consider supporting anyone who can deliver the following as we all deserve a normal Nation Building experience just as India and China doing for their people??.
    1.Dissolve Presidential position eventually
    2.A functional parliament under PM
    3.Reduced number of MP’s & qualified technocrats to do the development work and serve people
    4.Very few ministries manned by the top technocrats
    5.Dissolve PC’s
    6. Suspend LG and Municipal election for a set time period until basic and fundamental framework/services/standards are restored and people trained to fulfil all the functions streamlined through out the country. Solid wast/recycling/erosion/water/sea pollution management given centre them in designing all future services with the best practices from around the globe adopted.
    7. Ban all political parties with race/language/religious names immediately since they have become the vehicles used to undermine the democracy itself.
    8. Instead of Counter terrorism measures a National Security act to put away anyone murmurs a word of racism forever. Malaysia is exceptionally successful today because of this and nothing else.
    9. Have one Memorial for all the children of the country who perished in our soil for all our ignorance since the Independence (including the Indian and any other foreign Solider Died in our soil too mindfully) and make this an Environmental day to clean up the country where is National holiday all the families visit/clean each others villages to do this will connect people for the right reasons. Invite all the visiting head of states to pay respect to at the common memorial telecasted to the entire Country.
    10. Sinhala/Tamil/English education from elementary levels. Consider adopting Chinese/Hindi/Spanish as optional languages taught in the schools (language education only) such next generation of children are equipped to deal with their regional powers successfully for better trade/education/Nation building purposes and for joint venture Research and Development work to orient our development on Science and Technology.

    Continued

  • 1
    1

    11. The SL diaspora (non partisan term) to assist sponsoring the children from SL to to further education in their respective countries and hopefully they can Home them in their houses too. Make this cross race/language/religious/cast event so we through our action effect change once and for all complementing governments policies. Introduce their children and their respective foreign country children to link with our children in SL and develop networking/friendship.
    12. Diaspora to invite their Head of State just like the Philippine’s around the world do as a united people with pride. Not as a segregated/divided/lost community. Then we will not only help us will also shape the world too.
    13. Media to play a roll to bring people through mindful articles/fact sharing and not through ignorance party political braodcast. A recall a very destructive news paper such Suthanthiran up North and am sure very many sister media down south played and continue to play the racist tunes too. They should never have a place in our society.
    14. Have a TV program like Question Time UK / Current affairs to travel through the Country where the elected officials/specialists will answer and records peoples needs and feel the pulses continiously.
    15. Foreign embasis to be briefed in their roll in supporting such mission for them to benefit from SL too. We are not part of their insecurities nor their playground for their geo political agandas. She is a sovereign neutral nation to be respected as we will not meddle in their affairs but happy to trade and follow all other International norms in the future once we sorted out the Nation Hood issues affected by many factors we yet to address too.
    16. Encourage University children to focus on education at the universities (not revolutions) so they can be the proud owners of the land they can design/nature a future applying all that they have learned LOVINGLY.
    17.All other readers kindly add your wish lists too hear please empowering all Mother Lankan Children. Thank you.

    Hope and Optimism is what we need at this juncture.

  • 10
    1

    Laksiri Fernando is a political turncoat and will never miss the opportunity to stand beside power. Nevertheless, I believe there are only three good explanations for the change of guard. The first is the possibility that China may have had a role due Indian interference in the Maldives. A tit for tat perhaps. The second is the explanation given by P.K. Balachandran, in which the Jacobin orator Wimal Weerawansa played up a RAW involvement to ouster Ranil. Last, but not least, is the meta narrative for changes given by the Iranian economist Jahangir Amuzegar who died earlier this year. His article titled “Nationalism vs. Economic Growth” that was published in 1966 in Foreign Affairs is a classic and captures a gamut of issues that possibly explains what’s transpiring in Sri Lanka now. Any serious student of politics should read this and move beyond constitutional chicken-coop narratives that are peddled by jokers such as Asanga Welikala, Gehan Gunatilleke, Rohan Edirisinghe, Kishali Pinto who are better off contributing to websites run by Indi Samarajeewa. Yamu! Kamu! Bomu!

  • 12
    1

    Laksiri is a political pimp.
    Dayan is a pllitical prostitute.

    Is this comment allowed by your policy? It’s a serious comment not an emotional outburst.

  • 7
    0

    It is too early to conclude that sacking of RW and proroguing parliament is ‘unconstitutional and/or undemocratic’. The jury is out there deliberating.

    One may suggest that the RW reaction is undignified but then he is not dealing with gentlemen. Or is he?

    .
    And Laksiri – the angelic butterfly wings you were wearing are fakes. They looked real. Where were they made?

    • 4
      1

      Pillai, it is good that you realised it now. I had exposed Laksiri as a fake democrat and liberal. As Native Veddha said he is a racist and opportunist pretending as a moderate and principled. As EW Golding said above he is a mere pimp.

  • 5
    0

    It beggars belief that someone like Laksiri Fernando could write such drivel.
    LF cites Article 42 (4) which reads, “The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in the President’s opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament”. Even LF should be able to appreciate that the scenario in which the President is expected to make such an appointment is immediately following a general election or when a prime minister ceases to hold office by death, resignation or on losing a no confidence motion moved against him. I don’t know by what stretch of the imagination you could argue this Article gives Sirisena the right to appoint a prime minister mid term in the way he has purported to appoint MR now.
    LF has also quoted with apparent approval the President’s story that “the main reason he decided to form a new government with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was the plot to assassinate him. He claimed that the name of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka had surfaced during investigations by the Criminal Investigation Department, but it was suppressed due to political interference.” Surely, if there was a plot to assassinate him, the President should have had the Police to probe it and bring the plotters to justice. That was no reason, however, to change prime ministers. Any fool should be able to see that. Interestingly, the IGP who it would seem did not successfully follow up the assassination story is still in office!
    The people who voted to make Sirisena president in 2015 expected him not to aid the Rajapakses but to bring them to book for their wrong doings. These people feel justifiably betrayed. Sri Lankans are a decent people and admire decency, honesty and gratitude. They may well abide the rascals they have lording over them without violent protest. But the President should know that, with most people, he has lost all credibility.

  • 5
    0

    Notwithstanding the arguments for and against by Laksiri, this charade will continue unabated and the minorities will continue to suffer because of the recalcitrant behaviour of the majority. The international community should have by now come to the senses that this god forsaken country will bleed to death and never seek or will be able to find the peace that ironically seems to have eluded because of the deluded majority.

  • 2
    0

    E.W.Golding.
    Quite a High Voltage comment!
    I AM IN TOTAL AGREEMENT.

  • 3
    0

    A fake professor has been adequately exposed for what he is, a bigoted self-seeking idiot.. Hope he does not write again.

    • 2
      0

      Kabaragoya – Laksiri has taken the place of public racist and bogus Dr Dayan Silva (currently in Put-in’s territory). They are now strange bedfellows!

  • 0
    0

    RW is the downfall of the biggest political party in SL. It is a blessing for UNP what has happened now. UNP can rebuild the party with a new leader soon. Because no way RW will get enough votes to be the PM. Even UNPers do not want him.

  • 2
    0

    Laksri,

    I thought you were an honest , liberal and decent individual. But how wrong I was and you have proved that you are as bad as them and extreme by jumping to wlecome back a THUG, CRIMINAL and above all a THIEF. From the comments it must be obvious to you that you have lost the trust. At least
    Dyan the Pankawala doesnt hide behind a liberal coat in his support for the T , C, and the T again.May god show mercy on you

    • 2
      0

      How could you ever be able to see him as honest person.

      We can respect him as a scholar but not honest. He is no better to any cheap politician of Wijedasa Rajapkshe nature.

      I am telling you at the time, while serving to University of Colombo this man Laksiri Frenando approved the – FAKE doctorates that were awarded to Rajapkshes.
      Meaning like Mervin Silva or the others would do, this man Dr LAKSIRI FERNANDO too has betrayed the academics.

      That should be a mutation in lanken sinhala genome. I am sinhala but I am ashamed to see the kin dof betrayals.
      For some reasons, this man or others could be against RW, but what matters for me, is to stand against injustices.
      We should first work for protecting democracy than anything else.

      • 1
        0

        Agreed . I stand shoulder to shoulder with you.

  • 0
    0

    //Because of the ambiguous nature of the 19th Amendment, the decision to remove Wickremesinghe as the PM has now become a controversy. However, until this matter is settled amicably, or in the Supreme Court, the President’s decision has to be upheld. Otherwise, the country would plunge into unnecessary chaos. Wickremesinghe appears to claim he is the arbiter in deciding on the constitutional issue. He dismisses going before the Supreme Court. //

    Given the uncertainty surrounding SC’s results at this stage, in addition to the previous oppressive experience with the MR regime, some citizens may think that RW’s reluctance to obtain SC opinion and instead his willingness to show how powerful he is in Parliament, perhaps exposed the collective power hungry mentality of all fraction. In addition, this stalemate and the resulting international pressures made the Sirisena-Mahinda Coupe difficult than they planned for.

    The longer the delays in reaching of the amicable process, the more they expose their indecent and uncivilized behavior in politics.

    The question here is what are the means we extend to public to express their quest for rule of law? What Dos and Donts we propose to our citizens while their political parties are greedy for power with the cost of acceptable political culture and well being of citizens.

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