Legality of the Opposition in Parliament
Posted on August 9th, 2018


The Island Editorial of August 8, 2018 titled “Diyawanna slapstick” very correctly recommends that one of the options open to the Joint Opposition is to “challenge the legality of the unity government on the grounds that the pact between the UNP and the UPFA has expired”. The legality of the “unity government” was challenged in the Supreme Court, but the Court did not grant “leave to proceed” on an outdated understanding of Parliamentary Privilege (Erskine May), on grounds that the formation of the “unity government” was based on a resolution passed by Parliament, and thus was beyond the jurisdiction of the Court.

The Petitioner claimed that the resolution passed by Parliament did not meet the Constitutional provision of a “National Government” and therefore was not legitimate. Notwithstanding past outcomes, another compelling reason to challenge the legality of the present opposition is the violation of the Franchise of the People; a Right that forms an integral component of the Sovereignty of the People under Article 3, which by the way, is the very foundation of nearly all Constitutions.

The Preamble to the Sri Lanka Constitution is based on the “immutable republican principle of REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY”. Based on this principle, the People chose to elect 95 UPFA Members of Parliament. From Day One, the majority of the Members of the UPFA were opposed to join the 106 UNP Members of Parliament in forming a government, thereby honouring the Franchise of the People, meaning the wishes of the People who voted for them. Under the circumstances, how legitimate is it for a section of the UPFA to join the UNP and resolve to form a “unity government”? Would not the Members of the UPFA who joined such a government be violating the Franchise of the People who voted for them?

The argument presented in Parliament and outside that a recognized political party cannot legitimately be with the government and the opposition at the same time does not hold water. The issue is one of Franchise. The minority of the UPFA that decided to go along with the UNP and form a unity government is violating the Franchise of the People, notwithstanding any internal decisions taken, because all such decisions must necessarily be subordinate to the Franchise of the People.

Answers to these question would demonstrate that the present government has no constitutional right to call itself a “National Government”, and furthermore, to resolve to increase the Cabinet of Ministers to 48, and State Ministers and Deputy ministers to 45, because nowhere in the Constitution does it say that a National Government can be formed with a faction of a recognized political party. The Judiciary has already denied the People’s Right for their petition to be heard. The very least that Parliament could do is to correct this serious grievance, and as an Institution that is a body of elected representatives of the People, recognize the wish of the People, as the latter’s sovereign right matters above all else, and recognize the majority sitting in the Opposition, that the People voted for.

If nothing happens and the status quo remains, it means that both the Judiciary and Parliament have failed the People and their pledges to honour the Peoples’ Rights.

2 Responses to “Legality of the Opposition in Parliament”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Wrong conclusion.

    It is not the judiciary and the parliament that have failed. It is the executive president who rules both these institutions. He wants to keep his SLFP in the ruling party on one hand and deny the JO its due Opposition Leader post. He also want to reward the TNA leader with the Opposition Leader post for supporting him. Essentially, the executive president wants all important functions of parliament and a strnglehold on the judiciary as well. This is not the only instance of the executive president totally nullifying the parliament, the judiciary and people’s mandate. The first thing he did was the play a game of checkers with the judiciary in shuffling 3 Chief Justices. Then he plotted the defeat of his own party at the parliamentary election. Thereafter he got his UPFA to form a sham “national government” and appointed the PM, the Speaker and the Opposition Leader as he wanted.

    There is only one solution – abolish executive presidency as promised by Chandrika, Mahinda and Sirisena.

  2. Randeniyage Says:

    Agree with Dilrook 100%.

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