Trump card for democracy
Posted on November 11th, 2018

By Sugeeswara Senadhira Courtesy Ceylon Today

President Maithripala Sirisena’s categorical statement that he would not reverse the decision taken to remove Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe from office and appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister instead is a clear indication that he is confident of the availability of several options.

Last week, he told the Executive Committee of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) that he would not reverse the forward march commenced last month under any circumstance and assured Party members that he is in possession of several trump cards to face any eventuality.

Taking the country and the watchful international community by total surprise, he signed the gazette notification to dissolve Parliament late night, on Friday.

Now, the country will go to the polls on 5 January, 2019 in the backdrop of both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Rajapaksa expressing confidence that they could continue to work together to get the country out of the current economic downslide.

Sri Lanka opted for an Executive Presidency in 1978 and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in 2015 also could not alter that. The Clause 30 (1) of the 19th Amendment says, There shall be a President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, who is the Head of the State, the Head of the Executive and of the Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.”

President Sirisena was elected by the people in a direct election held in January 2015, whereas Ranil Wickremesinghe was only one of 225 Members of Parliament elected in the August 2015 General Election. Former Minister D. E. W. Gunasekera pointed out last week that it was amusing to see one of the MPs trying to show that he was more powerful than the President of the country. He pointed out that  people power is supreme under the Constitution.

The United National Party (UNP) continues with the expired slogan that removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe was a violation of the Constitution. It is pointless to argue on this point as now everyone has the golden opportunity to prove their actual strength at the polls.

However, it is incorrect to say the President’s act of appointing a new Prime Minister was extra constitutional. Article 47 on ‘Tenure of the Office of Prime Minister, Ministers and Deputy Ministers’ states that The Prime Minister, a Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers, any other Minister or deputy Ministers shall continue to hold office throughout the period during which the Cabinet of Ministers continues to function under the provisions of the Constitution unless he – (a) is removed by a writing under the hand of the President.”

Furthermore, as legal experts point out, the withdrawal from the National Government, as defined in Article 46(5), of the Constitution by the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) means that the Cabinet of Ministers is dissolved and the serving Prime Minister, together with all other Cabinet Ministers cease to hold office.

Clause 48 (1) of the Constitution is about ‘Dissolution of the Cabinet of Ministers.’

It says,  On the Prime Minister ceasing to hold office by death, resignation or otherwise, except during the period intervening between the dissolution of Parliament and the conclusion of the General Election, the Cabinet of Ministers shall, unless the President has in the exercise of his powers under Article 70, dissolved Parliament, stand dissolved and the President shall appoint a Prime Minister, Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers, Ministers who are not members of the Cabinet of Ministers and Deputy Ministers in terms of Articles 42, 43, 44 and 45.”

The above provision could well be one of the ‘trump cards’ President Sirisena referred to last week. However, the trump card he used was the one on dissolution of Parliament.

President Sirisena had several options or ‘trump cards’ in his hand. They included governing until the end of his tenure and going for a presidential election, dissolving Parliament and call for snap election or call a National Referendum to get the approval of the people. His selection of the second choice shows his absolute faith in the supremacy of the people.

This is not the first time Sri Lanka is going for a snap election. In fact, none of the first five Parliaments in independent Sri Lanka could finish their full term of
5 years.

When D S Senanayake died in 1951, his son Dudley dissolved  Parliament after taking over as Prime Minister and sought a fresh mandate, In 1955, Sir John Kotalawala called for a General Election before his term ended. Premier
W Dahanayaka dissolved Parliament in December 1959.

Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s Government called for fresh elections after losing a Bill by a single vote in Parliament in 1964. Dudley Senanayake was the only Prime Minister to complete his full term of office from 1965 to 1970.

The trend of snap elections continued under the Executive Presidency too.

Although President J R Jayewardene subverted democratic practices by extending the term of Parliament by the notorious National Referendum in 1982, several other subsequent Presidencies or Parliaments could not complete their full terms due to various constitutional or political reasons.

The democratic exercise of President Sirisena to dissolve Parliament cannot be criticized by any person who believes in democratic politics. This is a chance for every leader who claims of majority support to show their strength at the polls.

Critical international experts and so-called diplomatic well-wishers too must allow Sri Lankans to decide the issue democratically, without exerting undue pressures and interventions.

One Response to “Trump card for democracy”

  1. Christie Says:

    I am no fan of Sirisena the puppet of India and Indian Parasites here.

    I hope an wish his recent actions are not directed by India and Indian Parasites.

    My question is is he trying to trying to nip the bud I mean the Nelum Pohottuwa.

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