With President Maithripala Sirisena boycotting the Cabinet meeting which was scheduled for June 11- a meeting where over 100 matters were expected to be discussed- Sri Lanka is now facing an unwanted crisis. This decision was taken as a protest to the functioning of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to probe on the Easter Sunday attacks. In a letter sent to the Speaker on Friday, the Attorney General’s Department has informed that the PSC proceedings could ‘strongly and adversely influence’ five cases in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks which are currently pending before the Supreme Court. While the President was dismayed with the Speaker due to the fact that he ignored HE’s request, the PSC members also wrote back to the Speaker stating that the Parliament has resolved unanimously to appoint the Select Committee by a motion signed by all political parties in Parliament. The PSC members also mentioned in writing that the Judiciary and the Legislature have maintained good relations and would continue that tradition and that any attempt by the Executive to interfere in this relationship is ‘unlawful and could constitute a breach of privileges of this Committee and the House.’ This proves the escalating tensions between the two branches of the Government.
As many revelations are pointing fingers at him, it could be that he is trying to protect himself from being portrayed as the black sheep. In this backdrop, the Daily Mirror spoke to a few concerned factions to shed light on the current situation.
Entire rule of law going in a different direction
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem said that there’s always a conflict between the Executive and the Legislature. “The only way out is to have a healthy dialogue. The Speaker has to play a role and we have already spoken to him. The President shouldn’t be encouraged to refrain from attending Cabinet meetings. A month after the terror attacks we see that the entire rule of law is going in
So we have to identify elements that are trying to exploit it and these include a few political elements as well. The Muslim ministers resigned in the interest of the nation and we are extending our support to every probe
elements that are trying to exploit it and these include a few political elements as well. The Muslim ministers resigned in the interest of the nation and we are extending our support to every probe,” said Hakeem.
He further said that the entire Muslim community has been demonised and the existing ground is quite fertile for radicalisation. “The existing situation is pushing them to be insular. Even the media has a role to play in reporting incidents in a responsible manner without fanning flames of hatred,” he added.
President is already a convict
: Dambara Amila thero
The President is already a convict after last October’s deliberate coup attempt to unconstitutionally install a Prime Minister whom ‘he could work with.’ He can’t misuse his powers this way. Nobody can intervene with the proceedings of the PSC
At the onset of the President’s decision to boycott the Cabinet meeting, scheduled for June 11, several civil society organisations met with the Speaker to make a request him to resolve this issue and ensure the smooth running of the PSC. “It was the President who agreed to establish a PSC to probe into the Easter Sunday incident,” said Ven. Dambara Amila Thero who was also present at this meeting. “It’s
- The PSC members also mentioned in writing that the Judiciary and the legislature have maintained good relations
establishment was a collective decision from the Parliament. We saw the former Inspector General of Police, Defence Secretary (former) and many others testifying before the Committee. Anybody is welcome to appear before it. The President is already a convict after last October’s deliberate coup attempt to unconstitutionally install a Prime Minister whom ‘he could work with.’ He can’t misuse his powers this way. Nobody can intervene with the proceedings of the PSC.” the Thera said.
President trying to protect himself
: Committee member
A member of the PSC, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the President doesn’t have powers to intervene in the proceedings of the PSC. “He’s abusing Parliamentary powers and privileges. It’s quite unfair because we can see that he’s trying to protect himself. If at all the PSC has to cease functioning, it has to come in as a motion from Parliament. However, we will continue proceedings and so far it has been progressive,” the PSC members said.
Without Cabinet meetings, responsibility of Executive seriously weakened
: Dr Harini Amarasuriya
“The Cabinet is part of the Executive Branch of the government – so it’s a constitutionally mandated arm of the Government,” explained Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Department of Social Studies, Open University of Sri Lanka. “It is where Government policy is discussed. Cabinet meetings are where collective responsibility for the Executive Branch of Government lies. If Cabinet meetings are not held, the Executive branch of the Government is fundamentally affected and the idea of collective decision making and responsibility of the Executive is seriously weakened,” she said.
If Cabinet meetings are not held, the Executive branch of the Government is fundamentally affected and the idea of collective decision making and responsibility of the Executive is seriously weakened
Responding to a question when asked how this conflict between the Executive and the Legislature could affect the country, she said that this conflict makes it very difficult for the non-political branches of Government, like the administration, national security etc. to operate efficiently. “We have paid for this conflict with the lives of over 250 people, there is an economic down turn, development is at a standstill and basically people’s needs are not being met. People of this country are being held hostage because grown men can’t seem to act with maturity and responsibility. Their egos have become more important than their duties and responsibilities towards the people who elected them,” she went on.
According to the Parliament website, a Parliamentary select committee has the powers to :
(a) fix its quorum;
(b) summon any person to appear before it, require any person to produce any document or record, to procure and invite all such evidence, written and /or oral representations from present and former members of the Staff of the Secretary-General of Parliament and Staff organizations, as the Committee may think it necessary for the fullest consideration of the matters referred to above;
(c) obtain the service of Specialists and Experts in the relevant fields to assist the Committee; and
(d) make interim reports from time-to-time and to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of Parliament
“The President has to understand that he is accountable to the people and to the elected representatives of the people – the Parliament,” Dr. Amarasuriya added. “We may criticise those elected members, but for now, they happen to be our representatives. He cannot act like an individual who is not accountable to anyone or anybody. There is a Constitution, laws and procedures for a reason in a democracy and he is an elected official in a democracy and not in a dictatorship. The Prime Minister needs to come out of his stupor and act. He can’t just continue to exist and function as if he lives in a different world. His attitude and arrogance have led to many of these problems and it is time he and the rest of the Cabinet came down to earth and actually show us that they are capable of acting in the interests of the people of this country. Up to now, they have shown that they do not have a clue and they don’t seem to care beyond their little coterie of friends and family,” she said.
While agreeing to the fact that the President has misused his powers in trying to intervene with the proceedings of PSC, she also said that the President and the Cabinet are accountable to the Parliament and through the Parliament to the people of this country. “Just because the President doesn’t like what is being said in the PSC doesn’t give him the right to interfere with its proceedings and violate the Constitution. He is behaving like a sulky child (or worse) and day by day revealing his incompetence and unsuitability to fill the position for which he was elected – with so much hope and expectation, I may add,” said Dr. Amarasuriya.