19 November, 2018

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The Quagmire Concerning Our Parliament

By Rusiripala Tennakoon –

Rusiripala Tennakoon

The recent decision by the President to appoint a Prime Minister following a changing of the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers and the simultaneous prorogation of the Parliament has caused a mayhem leading to a tense political situation. Several parties in addition to the parliamentarians representing different segments of the society seem to be seriously involved in this embroil.  Latest is the exacerbation of the confusion consequential to the Speakers announcement that he was accepting the Status –quo- of the Parliament prior to the appointment of Mahinda Rajapakse as the new Prime Minister. 

A statement released by the Speaker on 5th November, (as reported in the Press), contravening a previous statement made by the HIM stating that he  would recognize  Mahinda Rajapaksa as  Prime Minister, as his name was gazetted by President, Maithrhipala Sirisena appointing him as the Prime Minister, came as a complete surprise to the country due to its volte-face 180 degrees turnaround from his previous position. When we examine both these statements in the context of the provisions under the constitution of the country they appear to be worthless. Because the constitution provides a prerogative power of appointing a Prime Minister sans any powers of recognition by any one below him. To be more precise, the article 42, in our constitution (after 19th Amendment) sub titled, “Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers” in sub section (4) reads as follows;

“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.”

There are no sub clauses or overriding provisions anywhere else in the Constitution regarding this power. Nor is it stated any-where that the Speaker has to recognize or approve this appointment. Therefore we are compelled to state with respect that his first position of accepting him as the PM and his second position of refusing to recognize are both redundant. It looks like something confined to an opinion unenforceable.

In so far as the opinion of the President regarding the likelihood of his appointee’s command to win the confidence of the Parliament, it is a matter for the parliament to prove that it is not so, if it is so! That will have to be done following the laid down Parliamentary procedures. It is not a matter to be preempted. Nor should it be left to be decided arbitrarily by any one at his discretion! 

Our constitution is very clear regarding matters where consultation, advice and approvals are required in exercising powers delegated under the constitution. The constitution also does not provide for any adoption of practices elsewhere to supplement and undermine clearly stated rights and powers. Therefore trying to challenge an act under the powers of the constitution is unconstitutional and may be even considered as illegal and punishable.

To the extent of eliminating any doubts or conjectures it is not harmful to make a statement clarifying a position. Eg: The Speaker making an announcement to the effect that the officials in the Parliament are making the necessary arrangements to facilitate the changes necessitated by the Gazette notification is quite in order. But to make a statement which in effect is an overriding of the Presidential powers as given in the constitution tantamount to a superseding of the constitutional powers. 

The meaning of prorogation in accepted Parliamentary terms is clearly pronounced. Besides how it is to be done under the applicable laws, practices and procedures, there is no ambiguity with regard to its meaning and application under a universal definition;

Eg: Prorogation. Prorogation (pronounced ‘pro-ro-ga-tion’) marks the end of a parliamentary session. It is the formal name given to the period between the end of a session of Parliament and the State Opening of Parliament that begins the next session.

Motions (including early day motions) lapse when the House becomes prorogued, questions which have not been answered fall, nothing more will happen with them. If they have not been answered then they will stay unanswered. No motions or questions can be tabled during a prorogation.

The question that comes into our mind is how a meeting of the Parliamentarians was held during this period of recession. Isn’t that itself a violation of the accepted norm. In a real sense Parliamentarians are not expected to exercise any acts devolving on their parliamentary activities. In such a context why did the Speaker summon or permitted to accommodate a meeting of the MPs in the Parliament. The Speaker who appears to be very seriously concerned about the democracy and the good practices has decided to take decisions based on meetings which ultra-vires the parliamentary practices. In other words the Speaker is attempting to endorse and give effect to such a decision. Our humble opinion is, Mr. Speaker, it is undemocratic and un-parliamentary to do so. If a decision taken by the President is UN-constitutional and undemocratic as stated in your statement such action has to be challenged democratically and under the provisions of the law of the country. Not according to the wishes of a group of MPs usurping the parliamentary procedures.

While accepting that you have a right to consider something as your paramount duty according to your conscience, there are several others who would be held directly responsible for the prevention of the destruction of democracy if there is a real threat to such and you are not isolated. We have no doubt that in your limited area of responsibility you have a vital role to play when it comes to the safeguarding of the rights and privileges of not only the majority but even the minority MPs of the Parliament. But what we fail to understand is at this juncture, there is nothing that we can see as any violation of any provision in black and white enshrined in the constitution of our country. 

You seem to have been unnecessarily driven by an urge to step into some areas and make public statements without any written or authentic confirmations. We feel sorry to note that you have even relied on some statements made by Mr.Mahinda Rajapaksa at a meeting he reportedly had with some University teachers about the re convening  date of the Parliament. And also to rely on verbal assurances, as you have stated, made by the President in this regard. Mr. Speaker, what an irresponsible position is that? How can you make statements about a reconvening date of a parliament which is prorogued by a gazette proclamation of the President? For some unseen reason you appear to have been in a hurry to intervene and pronounce something beyond your powers. The Prorogation proclamation according to our constitutional provisions did include the date the Parliament was to meet. Leaving all the big accusations aside the effect of this prorogation was only about 5 days because the parliament before it was prorogued was scheduled to meet only on the 5th of November. And after the 5th there were only 6 working days to the date the parliament was scheduled to meet after the prorogation. When we look back a big commotion has been made over a trivial matter. 

In your statement you have chosen hard words which imply that “lawful summoning of the Parliament has been prevented, rights of members have been usurped, in the name of justice and fair play I have to make my stance known to the world”!

Your statement conveys a completely distorted version of the constitutional provisions of the country. Unlike UK and Canada, which most of the people who have attempted to justify their stand against the prorogation of the Parliament have taken as examples are gross misrepresentations of the facts? In Canada the prorogation has to be on the advice of the PM by convention. In UK while it is the prerogative of the Crown to prorogue the Parliament, the speaker is informed about the proclamation because is the accepted practice in the absence of a written constitution. What these critics have forgotten of trying to deliberately suppress is that we have a written constitution and it clearly states the procedure for prorogation of the Parliament. And according to that there is no consultation or prior information that is required for the President to prorogue the parliament. So how can an act done in accordance with the constitutional provisions are branded as usurpation of the rights of MPSs?  I wish to reiterate that lawful summoning of the Parliament is not prevented but ensured by the Presidents proclamation and we all await a ceremonial opening of a new session of our Parliament under a new government a new cabinet and a new Prime Minister. The new session can take forward all the democratic functions under the sun in that parliament.

In the context of repeated references to the Western parliamentary practices professed to be so sanctimonious, let us look at the reality of some prorogations that have taken place there.

Great Britain-: In 1997, British Prime Minister John Major avoided the publication of an embarrassing report on a scandal involving bribes being paid to members of his Government by Proroguing the Parliament.

CANADA- In 1973 Sir John Mc Donald and his conservative government was the subject of investigation by a Parliamentary Committee looking into the scandal surrounding the financing of the Canadian Pacific Railway and bribes being taken by various Government Ministers.

In an attempt to thwart the investigations and to avoid a critical vote in the House of Commons, Mc Donald requested that THE Governor general Prorogue Parliament. The Government obtained a short reprise but was censured after the house was reconvened 10 weeks later.

In 2008 Stephen Harper who formed a minority government had to face opposition due to lapses of the Govt. In order to avoid defeat and possible loss of power, Harper resorted to the Prorogation of Parliament.

Sri Lanka Recent events –

On 26-6-2015 the Parliament was dissolved on the insistence of PM Wickremesinghe when a COPE report on the Bond Scam was to be tabled in the Parliament on the following day.

All these were highly flawed events.

Mr Wickramasinghe was sworn in as a Prime Minister when his party had only 46 MPs out of 225?

The current prorogation is not based on any such. The Parliament will be able to take all necessary steps to uphold the Democracy when it is reconvened.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    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

  • 7
    3

    You are bloody supporting this crafty coup.
    Do not you know 19 amendment limits the power of the President.. .
    6.2 million people voted for MS.do you know 90% of them UNP voters.
    Do not stick to the letters of constitution but look at the rationale and reasons behind it ..

    • 1
      3

      C.
      The 19th amendment was badly crafted and was a bad idea; a crafty Ranil ploy.

      The present constitution is a mess; a political document with sinister motives in three different languages.

    • 0
      3

      What you seem to deliberately hide the fact that UNP had fallen to about a base of 28% during that period and the social forces and groups that initiated the change flatly refused to support UNP leader Ranil for the candidature
      The truth is UNP supporters who were desperate went behind the popular candidature of MS
      It was a consolation to the sinking UNP
      But before Long MS realised how UNP was trying to override their authority
      Don’t forget the CBSL Bond Scam they started with followed by unprecedented corrupt deals by the butterfly group headed by Ranil

      • 2
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        Mr. PUK aka Rusiri,
        “Don’t forget the CBSL Bond Scam they started with”. This so-called scam was entirely created by you and your puppet masters at Sirasa. If you have the guts, show the figures and prove the alleged losses. You can’t because even you don’t know. You only keep repeating what you are paid to do.

    • 0
      2

      What you seem to deliberately hide is the fact that UNP had fallen to about a vote base of 28% during that period and the social forces and groups that initiated the change flatly refused to support UNP leader Ranil for the candidature
      The truth is UNP supporters who were desperate went behind the popular candidature of MS
      It was a consolation to the sinking UNP
      But before Long MS realised how UNP was trying to override their authority
      Don’t forget the CBSL Bond Scam they started with followed by unprecedented corrupt deals by the butterfly group headed by Ranil

    • 2
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      Mr R. Pala,
      ” Because the constitution provides a prerogative power of appointing a Prime Minister sans any powers of recognition by any one below him.”
      Many moons ago, a mere bank clerk was appointed Chairman of BOC. He is now a “bondscam expert ” on TV, after a less-than-illustrious career involving gem trading among other things.
      I believe this appointment was also made on the same principle.

      • 0
        4

        My dear friend, I can understand your worry about my appointment as a chairman.
        It is human
        There are people like this.
        For some the rope is worth than the hanging
        You seem to be aware of many things about me that keep on worrying your mind.
        I am sorry i cannot help that.
        only thing i can request you is to ignore what I am doing and devote your valuable time to some thing more important than trying to run me down.
        if you are deriving any sadistic pleasure by continuing to repeat some nasty remarks it is your baby
        I wish you all the best and may the triple gem bless you
        I request you to go through once again over the worthless things that you have stated.
        You are comparing the appointment of the PM with a little position to which I was appointed for a short time which i do not consider as that important although you seem to be extremely worried of.
        But please do not forget that the person appointed as the Pm of the country was himself a PM before and later elected by the highest percentage votes of the people of this country as the President.
        After he was defeated he was elected with the highest majority preferential votes as the MP for Kurunegala by the voters. he is currently a MP of the parliament who is eligible to be appointed as the PM
        If your people can prove that he does not command the respect of the Parliament they can try to do so.
        But like you they are barking at the moon.
        Thank you my dear friend
        Rusiripala

        • 2
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          “I can understand your worry about my appointment as a chairman.”
          When a person who has accepted a position for which he is unqualified starts preaching to us about the Constitution, it is necessary to be suspicious. Crabs don’t walk straight, you see, Rusiri.

    • 0
      1

      Can the Elections Commissioner confirm that 90% of votes received by Sirisena were UNP votes? I thought we have secret ballot.

      Soma

      • 2
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        somass

        Whose vote did Dr Mahinda receive?
        Whom did the minorities vote for?

        Was Dr Mahinda expecting higher than what was declared?
        Perhaps even ballot rigging too didn’t favour him. Is that what you are suggesting?

    • 0
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      please read the 19A. you are talking rubbish
      the article that empowers the President to prorogue and appoint a PM remain unchanged from the 1978 version
      You seem to be lost among unknown statistics.
      Count the percentage of the UNP voters in the last local government election.
      You will know exactly the percentage included in the 6.2 million you are stating.
      you must thank MS for creating an opportunity for the sinking UNP to form a Government after slogging in the opposition for 17 years. and 24 defeats under Ranil.
      Buddy, there cannot be rationales superseding constitutions.
      Constitutions are made after considering rationales rightly or wrongly.
      Try to abide by them
      Thank you

  • 3
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    Dear Mr.Rusiripala Tennakoon,

    “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 the job of the speaker to enable parliament to determine if the fricking opinion of the president is consistent with the will of the house. On the bond issue you took the correct stand as a banker and earned our respect. Don’t allow the banker to turn butcher of democracy .

    • 0
      2

      Thank you, I respect democracy
      Let the Parliament meet and do the needful.
      Speaker has no right to override the constitutional power bestowed to the President
      After all this is the UNP constitution before 19A and after. At least they played the dominant role in making and amending it.
      why not wait till the parliament meets as proclaimed constitutionally and follow the process to take place without trying to preempt?

      • 3
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        Sarath,
        “On the bond issue you took the correct stand as a banker and earned our respect.”
        You don’t have to go overboard on the respect. He has never come up with any clear figures, and was well paid by Sirasa.

      • 2
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        “UNP constitution before 19A and after. At least they played the dominant role in making and amending it.”-

        The 19th amendment was passed with both sides of the political devide overwhelmingly supporting/voting for it! ………. If I remember correctly ……… only one guy abstained or voted against ………. the ex army guy from Amparai.

        So what is the problem now?

      • 2
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        Mr.Rusiripala,

        Make no mistake. I wrote on Ranil’s bond perfidy long before you decided to be a public thinker on public debt. So don’t accuse me of pleading Ranil’s case.
        The President in this instance did not act constitutionally. He replaced the prime minster with his hand pick in the manner of a safe cracker operating in the dark who replaces legal tender with counterfeit notes. So please don’t dish out crap.
        The constitution does not permit him to be a cat burglar in exercising his prerogatives. At least your fellow kandyan Sarath Amunugama has been honest about this episode. He has told a foreign journalist – it was a question of who gets to the gun first !

  • 1
    3

    Ranil, as a lawyer knows very well that the only place to sort out this issue is to go to Supreme Court. Ranil kept on saying that they made judiciary impartial. So what the hell is he doing squatting at TT without going to courts? Is he waiting for his Western buddies to send an Angel to rescue him?

    • 0
      2

      some one will have to tell him what to do.
      His disciples and party supporters are without backbones to do so
      He is heading for disaster.
      Pity an end like this to Ranil

  • 3
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    Rusiripala; we know who you are. You were bloody third grade bank clerk who bwcame its Chairman after going behind Sirimavo. What do you know of Banking man.

  • 0
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    Make me the President and if I can get the support of the right people then I will put the country right.I don’t like party politics in the country that is full of corruption.
    If I am given a chance,say for 5 years then I will use the talants of the hardworking exicutives of the private sector to help me to riun the country in a honest way.I will force the elected MPs to serve the country and people but not themselves.I will seek the help of international community to get back the looted money.
    You won’t believe if I say that at the age of 9 I gave loans to my father and his staff,where my income was more than that my father who was the Suprinadent engineer of DGEU.My late elderbrothers thgoght that I was suffering from a complex when I sat first class at a cinama.I was an engineer all my life and a self made hardworking honest millionior living in the most expensive area in Lonon owning a big bussiness but wear few cloths and live a simple life,always thinking about the unfotunate people left behiend where I have biult a shoppoing/bussiness complext to help our unfotrtunate people back home.
    Should I be a the President then there will be a day of reckoning for some but I doubt the island would give that chance.

    • 1
      0

      Buddy Nimal,
      “I was an engineer all my life and a self made hardworking honest millionior living in the most expensive area in Lonon owning a big bussiness but wear few cloths”
      I live in London but I have never met anyone who writes such bad English. Do they really allow you to go naked? In winter?

      • 1
        0

        I was never good in languages, not even my mother tongue, and I get a pretty sec to write my letters, here I do my own writing. I was poor at art too and when the teacher wants me to draw a elephant my drawings end up as a cow. I mostly grew up with burghers in Sl and other foreigners in UK whose mother tongued is not English, like the Spanish, Portuguese and Persian but married to a Jap/Chinese lady.

  • 2
    0

    Mr.Rusiripala,

    Make no mistake. I wrote on Ranil’s bond perfidy long before you decided to be a public thinker on public debt. So don’t accuse me of pleading Ranil’s case.
    The President in this instance did not act constitutionally. He replaced the prime minster with his hand pick in the manner of a safe cracker operating in the dark who replaces legal tender with counterfeit notes. So please don’t dish out crap.
    The constitution does not permit him to be a cat burglar in exercising his prerogatives. At least your fellow kandyan Sarath Amunugama has been honest about this episode. He has told a foreign journalist – it was a question of who gets to the gun first !

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