State Minister Diana Gamage’s seat in parliament is safe – for the time being at least.
On Tuesday, a petition filed in the Court of Appeal against the State Minister, which was seeking an order to declare her not qualified to be a Member of Parliament, was dismissed.
The petition, filed by political activist Oshala Herath last year, was dismissed by two of three judges hearing the case, citing a lack of evidence.
Herath had alleged that the State Minister, who has recently become a lightning rod for controversy, had a British passport, and therefore should be disqualified from holding one of the 225 seats in the country’s parliament.
Herath in his application claimed that only a British citizen could be a British passport holder and that by virtue of Gamage becoming the citizen of another country, she was no longer a citizen of Sri Lanka.
Herath also claimed that the State Minister had not obtained dual citizenship or any other form of citizenship in Sri Lanka.
While Justice M. A. R. Marikar agreed with the petitioner, saying that Herath had provided enough evidence to prove his case, the two other judges on the bench differed.
In his judgment, Justice Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne said, “The petitioner does not have iota of evidence that would substantiate his claims against State Minister Diana Gamage," adding that Herath had filed this application to bring disrepute to the State Minister and tarnish her image.
Justice K. K. V. A. Swarnadhipathi agreed with this judgment.
This judgement may just have come as a relief for the main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) as well, who are inextricably tied to the State Minister, if her claims are to be believed.
Having failed in his Presidential bid in 2019, leader of the opposition Sajith Premadasa left the United National Party to form the SJB the following year to contest the general election.
To do this, and form an alliance, he re-registered the Ape Jathika Peramuna, also known as Our National Front, which belonged to Gamage, as the SJB.
Gamage was made the SJB’s Deputy Secretary and an Executive Committee member and entered parliament through the party’s national list.
But her relationship with the main opposition party soured in 2021, when she voted with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna government to enact the 20th amendment to the constitution.
Since then the SJB has been at loggerheads with Gamage, expelling her from the party.
Gamage hasn’t been silent either.
In June this year, she alleged that the SJB had forged her signature in a letter of resignation in a bid to oust here.
Last December she filed legal action against Premadasa and General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, claiming they still remained members of the United National Party and therefore could not be members of the SJB.
During last year’s budget debate, she lashed out at SJB MPs, claiming that if she lost her parliamentary seat that all SJB MPs would lose their seats as well.
Her argument was that if she was found ineligible, then the party registered by her at the time of the elections, should also be null and void.
“If there is no SJB then there cannot be any SJB MPs,” Gamage told the Parliament.
With the Court of Appeal judgment however, the credibility of her claim, which would likely to have led to more legal drama and an unprecedented political crisis, will for now go untested.
This is not the end of this story however, with the petitioner of the case stating that he will appeal Tuesday’s decision in the Supreme Court.