With the Supreme Court judgment ruling out the President’s move to dissolve Parliament describing it as unconstitutional and violating Fundamental Rights of petitioners, the existing constitutional coup seems to be drawing to an end. While people applaud the independence of the Judiciary, they are also watching how the country will function from now onwards. In fact, how the country will recover and restore itself back on track. For that to happen, elected representatives will now have to act wisely. As Ranil Wickremesinghe was once again sworn in as the fifth Prime Minister yesterday, people are now watching how the green party will play their cards. With that in mind, the Daily Mirror spoke to a few individuals in varied fields of expertise to find out their observations on the recent SC ruling.
Need new Constitution abolishing PC system :
“If the President can dissolve Parliament at his whims and fancies, then, we are running dangerously close to a dictatorship,” said President’s Counsel Tirantha Walaliyadde.
“The President had no provision to remove Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe from the post of Prime Minister in the manner he did. The Prime Minister can be removed only by a vote of No Confidence or vacation of the post by retirement or b y ceasing to be a Member of Parliament. As the purported removal was unconstitutional, Mr Wickremesinghe never ceased to hold the post of Prime Minister. As such, Mr Wickremesinghe does not resume office but continues in it.”
When asked whether the Constitution requires any amendments, Walaliyadde pointed out that among other matters, the Constitution needed to provide sanctions against crossovers by MPs.
“Under the present Constitution, the voter must first vote for the party and then for the preferred candidate from that party. If once elected by public vote the elected member can change parties it amounts to a violation of the franchise. The devolution of power to the Provinces must be curtailed or the Provincial Councils should be abolished. If not, the emergence of a Federal State is imminent. The North and the East are even now close to de facto Federal Sates. Under the present Provincial Councils system, if the North and the East are merged as rumoured, in some political circles, Eelam is handed over on a platter to the Eelamists and the 30-year war was just a waste of lives. Sri Lanka also requires a new Constitution abolishing the Provincial Councils system as well as the preferential vote system and the infamous provisions accommodating National List interlopers- for starters.”
"The devolution of power to the Provinces must be curtailed or the Provincial Councils should be abolished. If not, the emergence of a Federal State is imminent"
With the Supreme Court ruling that the President’s move was unconstitutional, he has in fact set a bad precedent on the rest of the citizens in the country.
“The Constitution is the conscience of the people,” Walaliyadde said. “Respect for the Constitution should begin with the Parliament which is said to represent the people. If the Parliamentarians who were elected by virtue of the Constitution have no regard for it once elected, then can one expect the people to respect it? The people, in general, are fed up of the party system of Government. What Sri Lanka requires is the establishment of a Sinhala State with all minority races accepting it. It is only then that these racial conflicts will come to an end and harmony and coexistence will prevail. The Sinhala comprise about 75% of the population according to the last released census. The Tamils 15% and the others comprise the rest.”
We need to restore the confidence of investors:
Adding in his comments on the topic, Sirimal Abeyratne, Professor of Economics at the University of Colombo said that one good thing about the Supreme Court judgment was that it proved to the rest of the world that we as a nation, treasure the independence of the Judiciary.
"It would be better if the political leaders also follow these decisions and act accordingly. The political disruption has affected many aspects in different ways. Although the matter could be solved in a matter of days, its long-term impacts are greater. On the long term, we need to restore the confidence of investors."
“It would be better if the political leaders also follow these decisions and act accordingly. The political disruption has affected many aspects in different ways. Although the matter could be solved in a matter of days, its long-term impacts are greater. On the long term, we need to restore the confidence of investors. Policies need to be consistent in order to get investors to pool in their money. These depend on the political developments in
Prof. Abeyratne also stressed the fact that there should be a budget in place and that it was not a good idea to run a country without a budget.
UNP is stronger as a party now:
"The Government that will be established now is not a national Government. For that to happen, the SLFP has to extend its support. But with the TNA backing they are in a position to form a Government."
In his observations, Terrance Purasinghe, senior lecturer in political science at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura said that the country had a national Government before October 26.
“The Government that will be established now is not a national Government. For that to happen, the SLFP has to extend its support. But with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) now backing the green party they are now in a position to form a Government. The UNP had an internal crisis but it has subsided now and they are stronger as a party and the leadership is also strong.”
The coup would have succeeded if not for judicial independence:
“The Supreme Court’s recent ruling - that the President’s action to dissolve Parliament violated the Fundamental Rights of the people - is a watershed event in Sri Lanka’s Constitutional history,” said Gehan Gunatilleke, lawyer and an academic specializing in international human rights and public law.
“This unanimous ruling demonstrates two things. First, it demonstrates how important it is to guarantee the separation of powers in the governance structure of a country. In Sri Lanka, the Judiciary plays a vital role in protecting the rights of the people in instances where the executive acts outside the provisions of the Constitution. There is no doubt whatsoever that the President contravened the Constitution when he sought to unilaterally dissolve Parliament prior to the lapse of four and a half years since the first meeting of Parliament.
"It demonstrates how important it is to guarantee the separation of powers in the governance structure of a country. In Sri Lanka, the Judiciary plays a vital role in protecting the rights of the people..."
Without these checks and balances in place - without a Judiciary willing to perform its Constitutional Duty to check the abuse of Executive Power - the power grab launched on 26 October would have succeeded.
Second, this ruling demonstrates that Sri Lanka’s institutional culture has evolved during the past three and a half years. This shift is subtle and cannot yet be called a genuine ‘transformation’. But, in contrast to previous Governments, the Yahapalanaya Government either deliberately or inadvertently did not seek to concentrate power in the Executive. This is the legacy of the Nineteenth Amendment.
It has enabled institutions such as the Judiciary to discover its independence over time. The coup would have succeeded had it not been for this vital discovery of judicial independence.”
President should apologize to the public:
“The perpetrators who supported the Constitutional Coup should be punished,” said Wasantha Samarasinghe, JVP member of Parliament and convenor of the Voice against Corruption movement. “The Supreme Court in its ruling said that the President’s move to dissolve Parliament was unconstitutional. Therefore, the President should apologize to the public for all the chaos that happened over the past 50 days. We request for a commission to be appointed to investigate on the perpetrators attached to the coup. The JVP is also of the stance that the 20A should be presented in Parliament in order to abolish the Executive Presidency. People should be given the chance to vote at a general election and elect a fresh cabinet. Democracy cannot be restored just because Ranil Wickremesinghe was once again sworn in as the Prime Minister.”
"Neither Ranil nor his supporters have been protectors of democracy. We are now observing how the UNP will react to what the President has said..."
Samarasinghe said that it was important to protect democracy. “Neither Ranil nor his supporters have been protectors of democracy. We are now observing how the UNP will react to what the President has said and done over the past few days. Ideally, they should initiate an impeachment motion against the President. We can’t keep quiet while they sign more deals and drag the country to the gutters. So we request the public to be alert and join us in restoring democracy in the country.”