Unnecessary to reconvene the Parliament; also, No hurry to hold Elections
Posted on April 26th, 2020

Chanaka Bandarage

Article 70 (1) of the Constitution – ‘The President may by Proclamation, summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament’.

The law is very clear, the President has clear power to dissolve the Parliament (Article 33 (1) also provides this power.

Accordingly, the President issued a gazette notification on 2 March 2020 dissolving the Parliament.   

In the said gazette notification the President fixed 12 March 2020 to 19 March 2020 as the nomination period for the election of Members of the Parliament (MPs).

Unless there was a technical defect in the gazette notification (the writer could not find any), it is incomprehensible how one could seek a judicial declaration that the said gazette notification is null and void. 

Those who demand reconvening the Parliament state that Article 70 (7) compels the President to do the same:

Article 70 (7) If at any time after the dissolution of Parliament, the President is satisfied that an emergency has arisen of such a nature that an earlier meeting of Parliament is necessary, he may by Proclamation summon the Parliament which has been dissolved to meet on a date not less than three days from the date of such Proclamation and such Parliament shall stand dissolved upon the termination of the emergency or the conclusion of the General Election, whichever is earlier.

The language in the said Article is clear, that the President can reconvene the dissolved Parliament, and that will be at his sole discretion. 

There is no mandatory requirement for the President to reconvene the dissolved Parliament, owing to the current Corona Pandemic.

If Corono Pandemic has caused an emergency situation in the country, especially in relation to appropriation of funds for governance until the new Parliament is convened, Article 150 (3) provides the remedy. The President has power to act on his own:

Article 150 (3) – Where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed into law, he may, unless Parliament shall have already made provision, authorize the issue from the Consolidated Fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services until the expiry of a period of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.

The writer thus states that it is unnecessary to reconvene the Parliament. The government should concentrate on curbing the Corono Pandemic.

There is no public consensus for such a demand (reconvening the Parliament).

The writer believes that any judicial action seeking reconvening the Parliament is doomed to fail.

It is well known that owing to the President’s early dissolution of the Parliament 62 MPs lost their pension rights, as they failed to complete the full Parliamentary term of 5 years.  If the Parliament is reconvened now, those MPs may become eligible for pensions (if they manage to complete the full 5 years); as well as their salaries.  The daily cost of running the Parliament is enormous. These will be a huge unnecessary drain on tax payer funds.

The argument that these MPs are willing to forego pensions and salaries is immaterial; they are legally entitled to them:

(9th Schedule – Appendix III, List II):

(o) Pensions, that is to say, pensions payable by the Government of Sri Lanka or out of the Consolidated Fund;

 (p) Salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament and the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament;

They are no longer MPs, but former MPs.  But, many continue to act as MPs!  

Many of them have failed to vacate their parliamentary accommodation – bungalows, houses and flats (not by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers; they are part of the government).

Given the Corona Pandemic, it is humane to allow them to remain in their accommodation until the lifting of the curfew.

Also, there is no public consensus in holding the general election on 20 June 2020. The people live in extreme fear of the Corono Pandemic.  They want the Government/Presidential taskforce to working full steam and take every possible action to eradicate the Pandemic. They are least concerned about an election.

An election can be conducted only after the Corono Pandemic is successfully defeated; as currently seen, definitely not on 20 June 2020.

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