By Hema Senanayake –
I am not an enthusiastic supporter of Ranil. But, right now, any right-minded citizen knows that the struggle to protect Constitution at this very moment, is narrowed down to one single point, which is to get Ranil appointed as Prime Minister. President has insisted that he will never appoint Ranil as P.M. After Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, told to media that President has the power to appoint the Prime Minister and that H.E has firmly decided not to appoint Ranil as P.M. even though he commands the confidence of the Parliament, I decided to go through the relevant clauses of the Constitution, in order to understand this point by myself as a non-legal ordinary person.
I have observed that many legal luminaries and other intellectuals such as Dr. Nalin De Silva have reiterated the same point insisted by Mahinda Yapa. What is the exact position about it? There cannot be two truths on one single point. I have decided to investigate about it.
The relevant clause of the President’s power to appoint a Prime Minister has been defined in clause 43(3) under the Chapter 8 of the Constitution. I quote it below:
“43(3) The President shall appoint as Prime Minster the Member of Parliament who in his opinions is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.”
How do you understand this clause? I do not see any unambiguity on this clause or in other words, there is no more than one genuine interpretation in regard to this clause of the constitution.
This clause cannot be defined as “President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament who he wishes.” Therefore, there is no discretionary power vested on the President to appoint the Prime Minister. Yet, the President can and must make an opinion in regard to whom He shall appoint as Prime Minister. But his opinion must be subjected to a certain important condition, which is, that the Prime Minister so appointed should be able to command “the confidence of Parliament.” What does this mean?
This means that you may remove the phrase “in his opinions” to get the practical application of this clause; so, it should be read as “The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament who is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.” The most insignificant phrase used in clause 43(3) is “in his opinions.” I guess that the words “in his opinions” are added to this particular clause to add a certain kind of curtesy. Therefore, the President must make an opinion based on evidence. If majority of members of parliament submit sworn affidavits that they have the confidence in Ranil as Prime Minister, President has no choice other than appointing him as P.M. If Mahinda has the majority support of members of the Parliament, President must appoint him as P.M.
This means that even if Anura Kumara or Sampatnahan can prove that he commands the confidence of Parliament, the President must appoint him as P.M. If president does not do it, he violates the constitution and ethics.
The bottom line is that in appointing a Prime Minister the President must execute the will of the Parliament not his personal will. Any fight for this interpretation will be to protect the constitution.