Constitution clearly says how a Govt should be dismissed - Dr. Harsha De Silva | Sunday Observer

Constitution clearly says how a Govt should be dismissed - Dr. Harsha De Silva

United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian, Dr. Harsha De Silva in an interview with the Sunday Observer said, the unity of the UNP will be shown at the next Parliament sitting and declined to accept the story that a large group of UNPers would cross over and join the Government.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: Although the President has appointed a new Prime Minister, the UNP says, Ranil Wickremesinghe is still the PM of the country. Can there be two Prime Ministers at the same time?

A: The Speaker has very clearly given a ruling that he recognises the status quo prior to October 26. There is a Constitution and it clearly says how a government should be dismissed, how a Prime Minister can be removed.

Q: The country is still governed by the 1978 Constitution, based on the Executive Presidency. Legal experts say the President’s action does not breach the Constitution. Your comments?

A: Executive power was curtailed. The key power he gave away was the deletion of the paragraph which said in the Constitution that the President can sack the Prime Minister. So that clause doesn’t exist anymore in the Constitution.

It was deleted. In place of that a new clause has been inserted by which the ability to remove a Government and a Prime Minister is vested with the Members of Parliament.

Q: The UPFA claims that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is an attempt by the UNP to entrap the President. Is it true?

A: When we wanted to reduce the power further the Supreme Court determined that we cannot go any further. So, within the boundaries of that determination we have gone to the extent possible. The President can dissolve, prorogue, suspend and recall Parliament. One can argue that under Section 33 of the Constitution the President can dissolve Parliament. Of course, it is the President who dissolves Parliament. Under Article 70 of the Constitution if 150 members including those who are absent, vote in favour of a resolution to dissolve Parliament the President can then dissolve Parliament, within the constitutional boundaries.

Q: You said, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has recognised the status quo before October 26. However, we saw a massive protest near Parliament, organised by the UPFA claiming that the Speaker is now the UNP’s Speaker and not of Parliament?

A: They have the freedom to say whatever they fancy. The Speaker says, he doesn’t have the authority to reconvene Parliament. If he was a UNP Speaker, he could have gone ahead and reconvened Parliament immediately.

Q: Are you assuring that the UNP does not exert any influence directly or indirectly on the Speaker?

A: Of course we tell the Speaker, just like any other party meeting him and telling him what they think.

Q: Contrary to the stance of the Speaker the Deputy Secretary General (DSG) of Parliament says, they are compelled to perform their duties according to the gazette notice issued by the President. Hasn’t this created a conflict between the head of Parliament and its administration?

A: The Secretary General has no power as such. As a public servant he has no choice but to follow the gazette, and cannot challenge the President. We can, because we are politicians. But the DSG has to follow the orders of the Speaker. If he says he is not following the orders of the Speaker, then there’s a problem. You can’t assume power you don’t have.

Q: At the recent rally of the UPFA, the President said, he offered the Premiership to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa before approaching Mahinda Rajapaksa. Was the UNP aware of such a move?

A: The rejection of the offers made to Karu Jayasuriya and Sajith Premadasa shows the unity of our party.

Q: There are rumours that the UNP is also a part of this Government change, as most of the UNPers want to remove Ranil Wickremesinghe from Sri Lankan politics. Can it be true?

A: It is very clear that Karu Jayasuriya and Sajith Premadasa had rejected the President’s offer.

Q: If this is unconstitutional why didn’t the UNP in the first place seek the opinion of the Supreme Court?

A: Why should we go to the Supreme Court? They have nothing to do with the affairs of the Parliament.

Q: There was a strong opposition from the public against the UNP government, based on the tax policy, cost of living and especially the bond scam. Could this unpopularity have led to such government change?

A: In fact, no one wants to suppress the people. No Government wants to increase taxes, because the moment you raise taxes, you become unpopular.

The Government increases taxes to provide free health, free education, pensions and Samurdhi benefits. When we came into power, the tax to GDP ratio was 10.4 per cent, the lowest in the entire world. Now it has gone back to 14.5 per cent. After 50 odd years you see a surplus in the primary account of the budget. So we have to work within limits.

Q: At the beginning of this interview you said, the President now faces his Waterloo. What did you hint at, a motion of impeachment against the President?

A: Well, he said, he will go in an hour if he loses this battle.