Status of Parliament and Parliamentary Elections

18 April 2020 12:21 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Former parliamentary Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on April 17 issued a statement outlining the status of Parliament and the parliamentary elections.

 

He said he had been contacted by religious leaders, politicians, parliamentarians and several others seeking a clarification on the current impasse between the Election Commission and the Executive on the parliamentary elections.


“Sri Lanka and the world are faced with an unprecedented health and economic crisis. As the prospect of a constitutional crisis further compounding the plight of our country is a matter of grave national concern, I am setting out my position publicly rather than replying to each query individually,” the former speaker said. He pointed out that while every country in the world was putting aside political differences and uniting to face this threat, Sri Lanka was the only democracy to face COVID-19 crisis without a legislature to pass laws and financial appropriations to combat the pandemic and its economic consequences.


The following is his statement on this contentious matter:
“As the former Speaker, I have recently been contacted by religious and political leaders, parliamentarians, academics, civil society and trade union representatives and members of the public seeking clarification on the impasse between the Election Commission and Executive on parliamentary elections.


“Sri Lanka and the world are faced with an unprecedented health and economic crisis. As the prospect of a constitutional crisis further compounding the plight of our country is a matter of grave national concern, I am setting out my position publicly rather than replying to each query individually.


1.On March 2, 2020, His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved Parliament by a proclamation, calling for parliamentary elections to be held on April 25, 2020 and for the new Parliament to meet on May 14, 2020.


2.On March 21, 2020, the Election Commission invoked its authority in terms of Section 24 (3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, announcing that the poll for the parliamentary election cannot be taken on April 25, 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka.


3. Article 70 (5) (a) of the Constitution requires that upon the dissolution of Parliament, the new Parliament shall be summoned to meet on a date not later than three months after the date of the proclamation that dissolved Parliament, which must happen by June 2, 2020.

 

Sri Lanka is the only democracy to face COVID-19 crisis without a legislature to pass laws and financial appropriations to combat the pandemic and its economic consequences


4. On March 31, 2020, April 1, 2020 and April 6, 2020, letters were exchanged between the Election Commission and the Secretary to the President indicating that:


A. It is the position of the Election Commission that the prevailing situation and logistical constraints prohibit parliamentary elections from being held in time for the new Parliament to be summoned to meet by June 2, 2020.
B. The government is of the view that there is necessarily no impediment to the holding of parliamentary elections on or before May 28, 2020.


“Every country in the world is putting political differences aside and uniting to face this threat. Sri Lanka is the only democracy to face COVID-19 crisis without a legislature to pass laws and financial appropriations to combat the pandemic and its economic consequences.


“It is my opinion that the government and the opposition must engage with the Election Commission and with each other urgently and in good faith. If there are any precautions or new laws that the Commission determines would allow it to safely hold elections in time, these must be explored immediately. In the event that holding elections in time is not possible, a constitutional crisis must be avoided at all costs. Such a crisis entails the risk of delegitimising and destabilising our country and could gravely impact Sri Lanka’s prospects of obtaining economic relief.


“In the interest of the nation, I appeal to the government, opposition, and other stakeholders to set aside their political differences and to take urgent and meaningful steps to avoid an unnecessary third crisis for our country.

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