‘NEW’ LAWS CANNOT APPLY FOR THIS IMPEACHMENT – Leader of the House
Posted on January 9th, 2013

Nadira Gunatilleke-Courtesy The Daily News 

Even at that time Anura Bandaranaike made a pronouncement it was not mandated that a future procedure for impeachment should be mapped out. But several years have passed.

Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva

Neither the government or the opposition or the NGOs or the International community dared to raise this issue and ensure that new legislation must be brought. It is only after this impeachment motion, that those issues were raised. We have to deal with the situation in terms of the Constitution and Standing Orders as they are.

We cannot implement a Standing Order or a law with a retrospective effect. If certain parties are interested in establishing a more equitable and better procedure, it would be for the future and not applicable as at present, said Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva, in an interview with the Daily News.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: When will be the impeachment motion be debated in Parliament?

A:Parliament will debate the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report that probed the charges against the Chief Justice (CJ) Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake on January 10 and 11, and the vote will be taken after 6.00 pm on January 11.

Q:What will be the procedure after the Parliament debate?

A: If the Parliament approves the motion before it, then that fact will be notified to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. President Rajapaksa has the sole power to act on the motion passed in Parliament and remove the CJ from her post. Even so, the President can act without adhering to the Parliament motion. But when the Parliament approves the motion, the President is morally bound to accept that and implement it. Otherwise the President will be ignoring the voice of the Parliament (the representatives of the people).

Q:There were many other impeachment motions in Sri I Lankan history and nobody noticed any problem or issue in the Constitution or in the law, in the past. Why is it that now some elements are interested in this impeachment motion?

A: When the impeachment motion against Neville Samarakoon was brought up by the United National Party (UNP) government, there were no Standing Orders in Parliament to deal with such an impeachment motion. So while the impeachment motion was going on and in the order book, the UNP government made it a point to constitute this particular Standing Order and established a procedure for the impeachment process.

At that time there was no public outcry or any objection from any party with regard to this particular Standing Order. Nobody challenged it either in court or in the Parliament; so it was accepted. Thereafter when the impeachment motion against Sarath N. Silva was brought in, certain parties went to court and challenged the impeachment motion itself on several grounds and obtained a stay order against the Parliament and at that time then Speaker late Anura Bandaranaike considered all the facts and circumstances and ruled that the court has no power to stall the proceedings in the Parliament and issue a stay order.

Even at that time Mr. Bandaranaike made a pronouncement that it is appropriate for the future to spell out another procedure for impeachment. But several years have passed. Neither the government or the opposition or the NGOs or the International community or anyone for that matter, has dared to raise this issue and pressed that new legislation be promulgated.

It is after only this impeachment motion, that those issues were raised. We have to deal with the situation in terms of the Constitution and Standing Orders as it is. Now, we cannot implement a Standing Order or a law with a backward effect.

If certain parties are interested in establishing more equitable and a better procedure, it is only for the future and not for the present.

Q: Is there any need to prorogue Parliament at this juncture?

A: I do not see any need at all to prorogue Parliament at this juncture especially when the budget has been passed.

After the budget is passed, based on the budget speech, there are certain financial acts and regulations that come into operation and the government has to function.

The government ministries have a lot of work to get done, and legislation has to be gone through. Therefore why should we prorogue Parliament? There is no justification whatsoever for prorogation of Parliament.

Q: Is it possible to summon CA judges and the two MPs who appeared before courts before the House, for contempt of Parliament?

A: It all depends on the decision of the Speaker. Still this issue has not been in Parliament as a matter of privilege. When such a matter is raised, it is up to the Speaker to make a decision to forward it to the privileges committee.

Q: The main opposition, UNP too holds to the position as the government when it comes to the supremacy of the Parliament. Please comment.

A: The Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe from the inception stated very clearly the supremacy of the Parliament must be preserved and safeguarded. But some of the UNP members were not in agreement with that but I think now they have accepted their party’s position. When the court issued summons on John Amaratunga and Lakshman Kiriella, the UNP took a decision not to appear before court.

So that shows very clearly that the UNP has honoured the supremacy of the Parliament.

Q: Pakistan’s Chief Justice recently clearly said that Parliament is supreme. Please comment.

A: Yes, but it does not have much relevance to Sri Lanka because we are guided by our own Constitution.

But the majority of the agreed Constitutions spell out clearly the ambit of activities of the judiciary and the Parliament. So the Parliament being the legislative body and comprised of the representatives of the people is always considered to be supreme.

Q: Indian lawyers came to a common agreement not to appear for the six rapists who raped and killed a medical student. What do you think about the behaviour of the Sri Lankan lawyers?

A: As a lawyer I personally do not agree with this because even the worst murderer or rapist must have access to the legal system and should be able to have a fair hearing before court. Every cultured legal system has extended this opportunity to all suspects. It is a matter for a lawyer to decide whether he is appearing for a certain case or not. But we should not bar or place restrictions on a lawyer not to appear for a particular client because the law presumes a person to be innocent till proven guilty.

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