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Danger Lurks

7 November 2018 12:00 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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From the day President Maithripala Sirisena unseated Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to replace him with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country is fast drifting towards anarchy and a dangerous situation is in the making. The statement by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Monday that he had been compelled to recognize the previous status quo in Parliament until the new faction in the fray shows its majority in the Parliament has intensified the tense situation.  

Despite the Speaker having indicated that the situation would be normal once the newly appointed Prime Minister shows that he has the confidence of the majority of members of the Parliament, the procedure to show the majority is not clear. There had been a practice before the second Republican Constitution was introduced in 1978 where the Governor General or the President, at the beginning of each new session of the Parliament delivered the Throne Speech over which a vote was taken. If the Throne Speech was defeated it was deemed as the defeat of the government of the incumbent Prime Minister. For instance, it happened in 1964.  

Under the present Constitution the President makes a policy statement in the House at the beginning of the new session of the Parliament, but it is not a must. Also even if he made such a statement a vote on it was not normally taken, since it was also not a must.   

And in countries like India and Pakistan, a confidence vote is taken in the Parliament after every change in premiership or every cross over by a considerable number of members from the ruling party to the Opposition. The practice is followed in the State Assemblies of the two countries as well.  

However, there is no provision in the present Constitution in Sri Lanka for a prime minister to prove his majority power in the Parliament, other than a no confidence motion brought in by the Opposition. But who is the Prime Minister in the Parliament? Speaker says it is Ranil Wickremesinghe, as he recognizes the previous status quo in the Parliament. At the same time the President who is to convene the parliament on November 14, according to his latest gazette notification recognizes Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister.   

In a practical sense, when the Parliament meets, where are Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe going to sit in its Parliament chamber? The earlier statement by the Speaker that the Prime Minister’s seat in the House would be allocated to Rajapaksa is being annulled by his latest statement that he recognized the previous status quo of the House. Accordingly, Wickremesinghe would take the Prime Minister’s seat. Will the Rajapaksa loyalists allow him to do so? Will it lead to a physical clash between the two groups? Should such a situation be allowed to happen?   

And also, is it in the Opposition benches or the ruling party benches in the Parliament that the Rajapaksa loyalists (and Wickremesinghe loyalists) going to sit? How the Speaker, as the sole authority in the legislature is going to solve these problems is not clear, as this situation has arisen for the first time in the country.   

The most dangerous matter is that both the groups might bring in thousands of people to Colombo on the day parliament is to meet and there is a possibility of spilling over of any unfortunate situation in the House to the people outside. let saner counsel prevail on the part of all stakeholders to avert any such untoward situation and to resolve the crisis amicably.   

Even if the Speaker managed to save the day on November 14 and any one of the two Prime Minister aspirants established his majority in the House, probably there would be a hung Parliament for the remaining period of the House. Therefore, it is advisable now for both the groups to amicably agree upon a process to bring in a new composition of Parliament forthwith, through a fresh election, as the hands of the President are tied in that regard till February, 2020.   

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  • willowsd Wednesday, 07 November 2018 08:49 AM

    IN the first place must sack the HE, and then reach an amicable approach?.


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