The decision made by the Mahinda Rajapaksa group in Parliament to walk out of the chamber and the announcement made thereafter that the group would not be attending Parliament till the Speaker corrects himself -- while claiming Mahinda Rajapaksa was the Prime Minister and they were the governing party in Parliament -- are unprecedented moves unheard of in any Parliamentary democracy.
Under Article 42(2) of our Constitution, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers have to be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament. It is also significant that under Article 33 (A), the President is responsible to Parliament for the due exercise, performance and discharge of his powers, duties and functions under the Constitution and any written law including the law relating to public security.
In a parliamentary system, the government is answerable to the people through their representatives in Parliament
In a parliamentary system, the government is answerable to the people through their representatives in Parliament. It is the Members of Parliament who are able to check the moves of the government on behalf of the people who are sovereign under Article 3 of the Constitution. Therefore, what this move by the governing group means, is that hereafter the Prime Minister and the ministers will not be answerable to Parliament and thereby they are challenging the sovereignty of the people.
Under Article 3, the sovereignty of Sri Lanka is in the people. Article 4 underscores the institutions through which the sovereignty of the people will be exercised and enjoyed. Under Article 4 (a), the legislative power of the people is exercised by Parliament consisting of elected representatives of the people. Therefore, Parliament is one pillar of the exercise and enjoyment of sovereignty of the people.
The opposition keeping away from Parliament does not coach much anxiety as they do not govern the country. Once the party that claims to govern the country decides to keep away from Parliament, it is a serious violation of the Constitution as the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are responsible to Parliament and this act in fact means that the government is challenging the sovereignty of the people.
To govern the country from outside Parliament is a violation of the Constitution. Breach of sovereignty of the people is an act of shifting the centre of governance out of the Constitutionally-prescribed venture of power. This is in fact the movement towards a dictatorship. They will be creating a parallel power structure if they are to carry out seriously the threat of keeping out of Parliament. The people who are sovereign under our Constitution have to rise against this move. Only mobilisation of people can bring back sanity into those who claim to be in power.
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