No notice served on Respondents– J. C. Weliamuna PC | Sunday Observer

No notice served on Respondents– J. C. Weliamuna PC

MP Geetha Kumarasinghe
MP Geetha Kumarasinghe

Parliamentarian Geetha Kumarasinghe appeared jubilant walking out of the Supreme Court premises in Hulftsdorp, last Friday, where an interim injunction was awarded in her favour by the apex court of the country after considering an appeal.

Investigations on whether Ms. Kumarasinghe was a dual citizen, in Sri Lanka as well as in Switzerland commenced as far back as the latter part of 2015, soon after the introduction of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which brought in changes to Article 91 of the Constitution.

Article 91 of the Constitution was amended to include that “a citizen of Sri Lanka who is also a citizen of any other country” is not eligible to hold Parliamentary membership.

Parliamentarian Kumarasinghe was one of those affected by this law which stipulated that “no person shall be qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament or to sit and vote in Parliament if he/she is “a citizen of Sri Lanka who is also a citizen of any other country’.”

In a landmark judgement, the Court of Appeal issuing a writ of Quo Warranto disqualified the MP from continuing as a Parliamentarian on the basis that she was a holder of dual citizenship, both in Sri Lanka as well as Switzerland. The order was based on a report filed to court by the Department of Immigration and Emigration where it confirmed that the Respondent, Parliamentarian Kumarasinghe was a holder of dual citizenship.

This ruling stirred up a hornet’s nest as speculation spread on social media and other platforms where a number of other MPs were also named as holders of dual citizenship. However, none of them commented on the issue, with only MP Basil Rajapaksa admitting his citizenship in the US.

Practically proving whether a Sri Lankan citizen is also a citizen of another country is a challenging task. According to the Controller General, Immigration and Emigration Department, M.N Ranasinghe there is no mechanism in place to link or update when a citizen is granted a citizenship in another country, unless they voluntarily declare so.

“When a citizen of Sri Lanka obtains citizenship in another country, under the Citizenship Act of Sri Lanka originally introduced in 1984, his or her citizenship in Sri Lanka automatically ceases to exist. So once they are granted citizenship in another country they are required to make a fresh application under the dual citizenship category. However, most people don’t do this but continue to hold on to both passports,” Ranasinghe explained.

Although it is clearly stated in law that citizens must hand over passports, identity cards and/or other documents to the nearest embassy the majority don’t adhere to this and the Sri Lankan Immigration authorities have no means to cover this loophole in law.

“We are not in a position to obtain this information from relevant embassies as they don’t divulge such information, on the basis that they have a duty to protect the rights of their citizens, unless there is a court order that could be enforced in that specific country.”

According to the Court of Appeal order, the MP was disqualified from holding office and the court further directed the Attorney General, with the co-operation of the Secretary General of Parliament, D. Dassanayake to derive a mechanism to recover expenses incurred by state on the MP during her tenure as a Parliamentarian.

However, on Friday, leave to appeal was granted by the Supreme Court and the interim injunction sought by the Parliamentarian seeking a stay on the order given by the Court of Appeal on the Writ application bearing no 362/2015 was also granted till tomorrow, when the matter will be taken up for support.

President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva appeared for the Respondent- Petitioner, Parliamentarian Kumarasinghe instructed by Paul Ratnayake Associates, while President’s Counsel J. C. Weliamuna appeared for the Petitioner- Respondents.

While appearing in court on Friday, Counsel Weliamuna, questioned as to how the applicant managed to get the appeal called in such a short duration and without notice being served on the other parties. He further informed court that he appeared based on news reports that the matter would be heard on Friday and that no notice was served on the Respondents.

Sources reveal that the judges had only received papers that morning and had not been able to peruse the file prior to it being taken up in open court.

“The credibility of Court is at stake in such instances. She is a privileged litigant and no other ordinary citizen will be able to file an appeal and get it called to be heard within a matter of a few days,” Weliamuna P.C ., said in Court.

Meanwhile, Sergent-at-Arms of Parliament, Anil Samarasekara, speaking to the Sunday Observer said, MP Geetha Kumarasinghe will be able to hold her office as she did, prior to the issuance of the Court of Appeal judgement until the appeal is heard and decided upon.

“Parliament will make arrangements to facilitate the decision given by the Supreme Court. We are bound by the interim order,” he said.