Now that a section of the “SLFP”, who happened to be ‘part and parcel’ of the National Government formed by the UNP has presented a ‘no confidence’ motion against a Cabinet Minister of their own government, a pertinent question would arise as to whether the National Government is legally in existence and valid. This is a unique situation unbecoming of the operation of a National Government. Isn’t it unethical and bad in law to continue governing the country under the pretext of a so-called National Government having more than the maximum 30 numbers in the Cabinet as stipulated under Article 46(1) under a normal government?
During the parliamentary election campaign, the UPFA has categorically stated that they would not join any party to form a National Government. Their manifesto is also silent on supporting for it. There is no mandate given by the people for the UPFA elected members to support this move. Further, there appears to be a procedural flaw in obtaining the required approval at the executive committee of the UPFA. However, as reported in the newspapers, the UNP, who obtained the highest number of seats at the last parliamentary elections has entered into a MoU with the SLFP to form the present National Government. It is a fact the SLFP is not a recognised political party in parliament for the purpose of defining the National Government in terms of Article 46 in the 19th Amendment. Therefore, neither the SLFP nor the UPFA can be included as a party in the so-called National Government formed in terms of article 46 (5) in 19th Amendment. One could argue that the due process of law has not been followed in forming the National Government. It is true that at least one member from the Muslim Congress, which is a recognised political party in parliament could also be counted as a party within the National Government although it is not specifically stated in parliament.
According to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, the Sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes franchise, fundamental rights and the powers of government. It is the legislative power of the people that is exercised by Parliament. Benjamin Franklin expressed the concept as “…. In a fundamental regime, the rulers are the servants and the people are their superiors and sovereigns”. Can we have Opposition members as servants of the rulers?
The concept of sovereignty of the people as per the 1978 Constitution means the authority of the government is created by the consent of the people. The government is granted with the people’s power ‘sovereignty’, on trust, in order to serve the public. This is the reason why in most democratic countries, governments are known to be ‘by the people for the people.’
The present “National Government” has only enabled the elected MPs and even defeated candidates to carve out portfolios and privileges in parliament, thus wasting valuable taxpayers’ money. The innocent citizens continue to pay direct and indirect taxes to the general treasury to maintain a large Cabinet of ministers and non-Cabinet and deputy ministers. The overall impact on consumers, employers and public finances is hard to pin down. The government budget deficit as well as the negative balance in the current account will probably rise, as the MPs will go after vehicle imports by using the duty free permits allocated to them. It seems that the so-called National Government has so far failed in addressing the pressing needs of the people and improve their quality of life. They have not even been able to avoid the economic downturn.
In the circumstances, it is not only unethical but “bad in law” as well to increase and maintain the number of Cabinet Ministers beyond the stipulated maximum of 30 under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It is the power of the people that is exercised by Parliament. As Supreme Court Judge R. Wanasundara stated in the judgement delivered in the case challenging the 13th Amendment, the members of Parliament hold a mandate and are agents of the People.The innocent citizens continue to pay direct and indirect taxes to the general treasury to maintain a large Cabinet of ministers and non-Cabinet and deputy ministers against the provisions of the 19th Amendment to the constitution. We speak about a limited government under unlimited sovereignty. Sovereignty includes franchise and is a fundamental right. A pertinent question would be whether the citizens’ fundamental rights have been violated?
The writer is a Fellow Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka. He has obtained his MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management and has also successfully completed an Executive Strategy Programme at Victoria University Melbourne, Australia. He was conferred the “Professional excellence award-2014” at the CMA National Management Accounting Conference.