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FeaturesNewsPresident Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament illegal, rules Sri Lanka Supreme Court

President Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament illegal, rules Sri Lanka Supreme Court

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Image: A protester at the on Sathyagrahaya against the dissolution preparing fire crackers just before the SC decision on 13 Dec 18. (c) S.Deshapriya.

Meera Srinivasan COLOMBO, DECEMBER 13.

For over a month now, the country has been left without a legitimate government or cabinet.
In a landmark case of the Sri Lankan judiciary ruling on the executive, the Supreme Court said on Thursday that President Maithripala Sirisena’s move last month, dissolving Parliament and calling for snap polls, was illegal.

The seven-member Bench unanimously deemed Mr. Sirisena’s action unconstitutional. Chief Justice Nalin Perera told a packed courtroom that the President’s November 9 proclamation — sacking Parliament — was null and void and had no effect in law.

Biggest crisis
The judgment is a major blow to Mr. Sirisena, whose sudden decision on October 26 — dismissing the incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointing the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place — sparked, arguably, the country’s biggest political crisis since the civil war ended nearly a decade ago.

The bitter power struggle for seven weeks now has left the island without a legitimate government or Cabinet, while the economy and its key tourism sector have taken a severe beating.

“I am sure that the people of Sri Lanka will welcome this [verdict] wholeheartedly and be relieved that democracy has been restored,” said President’s Counsel K. Kanag-Isvaran, who appeared for Tamil leader R. Sampanthan, one of the petitioners.

“I hope the authorities concerned will honour this and act accordingly,” he told The Hindu, minutes after the judgment was delivered.

President’s Counsel and Tamil National Alliance legislator M.A. Sumanthiran, who also appeared in the case, said the judgment would go down in history as “one of the most important decisions” made by the Supreme Court.

Another ruling today
The President’s office is yet to comment on the development. However, sources close to Mr. Sirisena indicated that he might take a decision on Friday in the light of another case scheduled to be heard by the court.

After the appeal court on December 3 restrained him from functioning as Prime Minister, Mr. Rajapaksa moved the Supreme Court challenging the quo warranto petition earlier filed by 122 MPs opposed to his controversial appointment.

“The President would like to see the outcome of that case as well,” a top political source said, requesting anonymity.

Namal Rajapaksa, MP and son of the former President, said that while respecting the Supreme Court’s decision, they (the MPs aligned to Mr. Rajapaksa) had “reservations’’ about the court’s “interpretation” of the Constitution.

Tweeting soon after the verdict, Mr. Wickremesinghe said: “We trust that the President will promptly respect the judgment of the courts.” On Thursday evening, the President met the MPs of the Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine and later held a separate meeting with legislators from his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

According to Dayasiri Jayasekara, a lawmaker from the SLFP, the President was likely to “appoint a new government” after Friday’s court decision. It is unclear whether the SLFP would be part of this government as it was in the national unity government which fell on October 26. The MPs had reportedly expressed diverse views on the matter and a decision would be taken after “further discussion,” political sources told The Hindu.

The “new government” is expected to be led by Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) which, with its allies, has proved its majority in the legislature at least seven times since the crisis erupted. However, it remains to be seen whether Mr. Sirisena will appoint Mr. Wickremesinghe, since he has vowed not to work with the deposed Prime Minister ever, “even if all 225 members” in the House back him.

Namal Rajapaksa, MP and son of the former President, said that while respecting the Supreme Court’s decision, they (the MPs aligned to Mr. Rajapaksa) had “reservations’’ about the court’s “interpretation” of the Constitution. Tweeting soon after the verdict, Mr. Wickremesinghe said: “We trust that the President will promptly respect the judgment of the courts.”

On Thursday evening, the President met the MPs of the Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine and later held a separate meeting with legislators from his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). According to Dayasiri Jayasekara, a lawmaker from the SLFP, the President was likely to “appoint a new government” after Friday’s court decision. It is unclear whether the SLFP would be part of this government as it was in the national unity government which fell on October 26. The MPs had reportedly expressed diverse views on the matter and a decision would be taken after “further discussion,” sources told The Hindu.

The “new government” is expected to be led by Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) which, with its allies, has proved its majority in the legislature at least seven times.

-The Hindu

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