Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera in a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has urged him to exercise his powers as the Head of State at this critical time and to summon the Parliament as soon as possible with the support of all parties represented in Parliament. He said that this was imperative to have the essential expenditure, including the payment of salaries to the public service after 30th April 2020 approved legally and constitutionally so that Sri Lanka acts responsibly, respecting the Constitution in relation to public finances.
Mr. Mangala Samaraweera also said that the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers and the Members of Parliament, as well as all public officials, including the Secretary to the Treasury, have pledged to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Republic. Any person who acts in contravention of the provisions on conviction by the Court of Appeal shall be subject to:-
1. Civic disability for such period not exceeding seven years and
2. Forfeit his movable and immovable property other than such property as is determined as being necessary for the sustenance of such person and his family.
Failure to do so, especially at a time of a pandemic is bound to have serious repercussions for the short and long-term economic well-being of our people especially in light of international obligations and the nature of the interconnected global financial and economic system.
The full text of the letter with copies to PM, and all Party Leaders represented in Parliament is given below.
28th April 2020
His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa
President of Sri Lanka
Request for the re-summoning of Parliament to constitutionally resolve crises and to approve public expenditure
I am writing this letter to you as the former Minister of Finance, who presented the Vote on Account for the state expenditure of Sri Lanka up to 30th April, 2020.
2. In the years when a presidential election is forthcoming, successive governments have refrained from passing a budget leaving an opportunity for the winning President to submit his own Budget.
3. As the Presidential election was scheduled to be held on 16th November 2017, the then government was of the view that presenting an Appropriation Bill would not be appropriate. Accordingly, the then Government presented a Vote on Account to Parliament for a period of four months from 1st January 2020 to 30th April 2020 and adopted it on 23rd October 2019 leaving an opportunity for the would be elected President to present his own Budget.
4. But on the contrary, the finance minister appointed by you did not present a budget for 2020 until you issued a Gazette dissolving Parliament on 2nd March in spite of the fact that you assumed office in November 2019, over three months prior to the dissolution of Parliament. As you would recall, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa who also held the portfolio of Finance did not present the Budget for 2015 since the Presidential Election was scheduled in November 2014 for 8th January 2015. Therefore, I would like to remind you that the good governance government that won the Presidential election on 08th January 2015 presented a budget for the financial year 2015 within 21 days of its election.
5. Instead of presenting an Appropriation Bill for the year 2020, prior to dissolution of the Parliament on 2nd March 2020, a proposal was brought by your government to amend the Vote on Account which had already been passed by the yahapalana government. Thereafter your government withdrew it after the opposition in Parliament pointed out that there was no provision in the Standing Orders for such an amendment. Now, as a result of the failure to present the budget due to reasons known only to your government, and the sudden emergence of the coronavirus (Covid-19), the country is afflicted with a pandemic in addition to legislative and economic crises.
6. Considering the serious risk of the spread of Covid-19 in the country, the Election Commission announced on the 20th of April that the General Election scheduled for 25th April will be held on 20th June 2020. However, the date to summon the new parliament to meet upon the conclusion of the proposed General Election scheduled for 20th June 2020 which is a must according to the Constitution has not been officially announced.
7. I urge that by virtue of the Vote on Account passed on 23rd October 2019, the Constitution clearly states that the Government of Sri Lanka has no legal right to bear public expenditure after 30th April 2020. As Parliament shall have full control over public finance, no sum shall be withdrawn except under the authority of a warrant under the hand of the minister in charge of the subject of Finance. No such grant can be issued by the Minister of Finance without such approval and it is unlawful for the Secretary to the Treasury to spend public money for any purpose without the approval of the Minister of Finance.
8. Article 150 (3) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka provides for the incurring of Government expenditure in the event of the dissolution of Parliament and in the context of an Appropriation Bill not being passed in Parliament.
150 (3) of the Constitution reads as: Where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed in to law, he may, unless Parliament shall have already made provisions, authorize the issue from the Consolidated Fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services until the expiry of a period of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.
The President shall be authorized to issue and spend money from the Consolidated Fund in terms of the provisions provided in the said Constitution only until the expiry of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet. But the due date for the new Parliament to meet has not yet been officially announced by the President.
9. As you are well aware, the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers and the Members of Parliament, as well as all public officials, including the Secretary to the Treasury, have pledged to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Republic. Any person who acts in contravention of the provisions on conviction by the Court of Appeal shall be subject to:-
* Civic disability for such period not exceeding seven years and
* Forfeit his movable and immovable property other than such property as is determined as being necessary for the sustenance of such person and his family.
10. Therefore, I kindly request you to exercise your powers as the Head of State at this critical time to summon the Parliament as soon as possible with the support of all parties represented in Parliament and to have the essential expenditure, including the payment of salaries to the public service after 30th April 2020 approved legally and constitutionally so that Sri Lanka acts responsibly, respecting the Constitution in relation to public finances. Failure to do so, especially at a time of a pandemic is bound to have serious repercussions for the short and long-term economic well-being of our people especially in light of international obligations and the nature of the interconnected global financial and economic system.
Sunil Abeyratne / April 29, 2020
Dear Mr Mangala Samaraweera,
It is good to remember that your election as an MP of the previous parliament was based on the will of the people at the time the previous elections were held. Needless to say, that the performance of your party led to the election of Gota as the President, which is evidence that the will of the people has changed.
There is no definitive technique by which one could establish if there has been a recent change in the will of the people, given its dynamic nature.
The dissolution of the previous parliament was legal. The argument that the President will be violating the constitution if he does not recall the previous parliament is best resolved by the Supreme court.
Again, you remember very well the manner your party frustrated the holding of provincial elections and one wonders if such conduct is indicative of a party that enthusiastically advocates democracy.
A plausible explanation is that your feared elections that time and also fears early parliamentary elections now.
There is no doubt that parliamentary elections cannot be held until COVID-19 is eradicated (or eliminated), but the link between such a necessary delay and the recalling of the previous parliament that no longer represents the will of the people, is not something many Sri Lankans may find palatable.
Ajith / April 29, 2020
Dear Sunil Abeyaratne,
You are right that previous government with a SLFP President and UNP Prime minister with a mixed SLFP and UNP ministers was a failure. As you say the election of President Gotabaya is legal and the dissolution of parliament also legal whether that election propaganda was democratic or not. Even the use Presidential power to release a murderer (military commander??)who was convicted for killing 11 innocent civilians including chilren by the Srilankan court could be legal but I don’t know whether it is morally right or wrong.
However, you say that the parliamentary election cannot be held within three months because of Corona. That is why Election Commission asked to get legal opinion from the Supreme Court. Why the President did not want to get that opinion from the Supreme Court? The previous parliament was elected for five years which will only ends in August this year. What is the legal problen in recalling parliament by cancelling his proclamation order?
RuwanL / April 30, 2020
Holding elections is the responsibility of the Election Commission. If they need clarifications they should go to the Supreme court! Please let me know the clauses violated by the president to substantiate why the president should go to the Supreme court
leelagemalli / May 1, 2020
but with stupid SIRISENA, do you think Mr Wickramasighe had any options ?
People attack him today, but SRIISENA s presidency was so brutal. He shamelessly betrayed the support given to him at the time his election.
I think – had BP SIRISENA done his job taking the side of the people, things could have ended up being successful – I think SIRISESN should be hung by his balls for all the stupdiities he deliberately happened to create.
And never forget, MEDIA mafia is also to be blamed for misleading the nation.
leelagemalli / April 29, 2020
Please listen to the truth – looking back Mr Sajitha Premadasa is 500% right.
Sunil Abeyratne / April 30, 2020
Thank you very much for the link.
I did not know that this was raised in the parliament.
Sri Lanka’s approach is not fit for purpose, particularly because COVID-19 is in the community now.
Without a comprehensive contact tracing strategy along with extensive testing regime, we will experience a large number of deaths.
I sincerely hope that it is not too late for everybody to fight it together.
New Zealand established the gold standard for other countries to follow.
leelagemalli / April 30, 2020
This happens when people voted for a man who is not capable of doing anything but that of a hangman – as the leader of the nation.
I thought SIRISENA was the worst. There I should be wrong. I am afraid.
leelagemalli / May 2, 2020
We the people are sitting in a bullock cart driven by the MEEHARAKAs (Rajapakshes today).
So, I dont think we could ever manage to take the anxities away from the poor people who have now been caught by the clutches of these idiots.
People are facing like – being pressed by both MEDIA mafia and Rajaakshe mafia.
leelagemalli / May 2, 2020
Do you still think you guys can put the blame on UNP for all the loads of failures deliberately made by that RAJAPAKSHE-lap dog SIRISENA (or the mongel man) ?
I am just a neutral person – who lives out of the country (born SINHALAYYA but now an international citizen) as I see it – UNP led govt achieved a lot – but none of them were passed to the grass root of the people
Just imagine at the time, BPs after their LOOT, left behind a govt that were overflown with debts and unsettled contracts being made with CHINA and various other countries – all that were overloaded to GOOG governance govt.
Bond BANK SCAM was not the biggest mistake, even if that should be investigated – but the MANNER most abusive RAJAPAKSHES did not allow former govt to do their job properly… they highjacked most stupid SIRISENA, whose profile is not seen as comparable as that of a school going PUPIL. He made public statement at the dawn and it had no effect by the dusk.. entire world – including the country where I am residing in EUrope, thought. SIRISENA-RW govt could bring lot more good than the bad – and at the begining they achieved a lot in terms of justice, transparency and accoutnability, crime investgations etc… but all those crime investigations were not heartedly supported by SIRISENA as the president of the country.
leelagemalli / May 2, 2020
Dear Mr Samaraweera,
we are a doomed nation
Date of election and the next meeting of parliament after adissolutionThe dissolution of parliament leads necessarily to a new parliamentary electionand, in due course, to the first meeting of the new parliament. During the intervalbetween the dissolution of the previous parliament and the first meeting of thenext parliament, there is no parliament in session, meaning that the governmentcan govern without parliamentary scrutiny or supervision. This can be a point ofweakness in a democratic system, especially when the dissolution is occasioned bya vote of no confidence in the government. In order to prevent the democraticdeficit that would otherwise result from a long interval between the dissolution ofparliament and the first meeting of the newly elected parliament almost allconstitutions specify that (a) elections must be held within a specified time after adissolution; and (b) the new parliament must meet within a specified time afterthe election. These times can vary, although a period of more than about threemonths between the dissolution of parliament and the first meeting of the nextparliament would be rather exceptionally—and perhaps dangerously—long.
Mallaiyuran / April 29, 2020
“150 (3) of the Constitution reads as: Where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed in to law, he may, unless Parliament shall have already made provisions, authorize the issue from the Consolidated Fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services until the expiry of a period of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet. “
Apparently my thinking was wrong on the conditions of how the EP can take money from consolidated fund, until today. I was thinking EP may take money for three months after he dismiss the parliament, which didn’t have a budget or vote on account. But it seems the 150(3) is only for the new parliament and it has nothing to doing with the parliament outgoing. If the new parliament needed time to present any kind of expenditure bill, it may consult EP to take from consolidated fund and it would present a bill within the three months its inauguration date. I don’t think EP can’t touch any penny from the consolidated fund until the new parliament comes into existence. Though the Section is only talking about the inauguration date, but an inauguration date to become real, a parliament election should have been conducted. If it is going to be hung parliament and the MPs asking for a new election, I think the EP has to have the 2nd new parliament convened within three months of the first new parliament, which may not have passed a finance bill.
Is that the reason Mangala didn’t group with the opposition, but presenting his letter separately?