Dissolution of Parliament... | Sunday Observer

Dissolution of Parliament...

With the latest development in the political sphere being President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament in line with the power vested in him by the Constitution of the country different opinions have been expressed on the matter. Sunday Observer takes a look into several diverse, independent opinions expressed on the matter.

Dissolution most appropriate- Former Deputy Speaker -Thilanga Sumathipala

The dissolution of Parliament is the most appropriate decision taken by the President in terms of the powers vested in him under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The entire country came to a standstill due to the ill-advised conduct on the part of the Speaker. His action was unlawful and illegal and as a result of it the whole country was burnt with that issue. If that situation continued further after November 14, the country would have reverted to a situation similar to the 1983 riots.

It is not the business of the Speaker to make use of his important position to drive the country towards a political malaise. Actually, this situation was created due to the decision taken by the Speaker which is completely beyond his purview. Therefore, the President had to exercise his constitutional powers and let the people make a decision considering the prevailing political atmosphere. If there is a crucial situation in which the President is of the view that he should dissolve t Parliament, then he can do so under Article 33.

In addition, Article 70(1) of the Constitution too empowers the President to dissolve Parliament and hold fresh elections. If the Speaker acted in a fair manner, this situation would not have arisen. As the Speaker’s conduct paved the way for a crisis situation in the country, the President had to use his executive powers and go before the people. Otherwise, this transitional period would have become a burden to the people. The Speaker, Leader of the House and some Government Ministers made various contradictory statements on this situation and as a result many people in the country were misled.

Therefore, this is the best course of action taken by the President to resolve the political deadlock which prevailed in the country.

Opportunity for people to exercise franchise- Former Deputy Speaker -Chandima Weerakkody

The people have got the opportunity to exercise their universal franchise. According to the Article 33 (2), the President can exercise his power to dissolve the Parliament. The country was unstable due that political atmosphere which prevailed. There was a dispute between the President and the Prime Minister and that was not a healthy situation for democracy and the country as well.

No political party had a clear majority in Parliament. Therefore, the best solution is to let the people to decide whom they want to appoint as the Prime Minister. The democratic political parties must be happy as their opportunity to contest an election has been advanced. At present, seven out of nine Provincial Councils stands to be dissolved. But no one talks about it. The international community was worried of not having an election on time. They must welcome this move giving the opportunity for the people to exercise their franchise.

Holding General Elections constitutionally correct- Prof. of Law and Dean of the Law Faculty, University of Technology, Jamaica and former Chairman, Human Rights Commission -Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa.

Under the 19th Amendment, there is a bar on the Executive to dissolve Parliament before four and half years from a general election. The President can only do so with two thirds majority in the House. But the 19th Amendment has to be considered not in isolation but in parallel with Article 75, Article 62 and Article 33 (2) C of the Constitution where the President has powers under certain conditions to dissolve Parliament early.

The President had clear powers to prorogue Parliament and the Speaker was challenging this constitutional power. There seemed to be a power struggle. The Supreme Court clearly upheld the power vested with the Executive. In this back drop, the President had decided to dissolve Parliament. He was acting within the Constitution when he called for General Elections on January 5.

It is, in my opinion, the right thing to do legally as well as politically.

Dissolution within- Presidential powers President of the Sri Lanka Bar Association, - U R de Silva (PC)

Merely because one is a politician or a legal luminary, one can say anything but the fact remains on the face of it to meet the relevant articles in the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court can decide otherwise because they have the authority to interpret it.

As far as this particular incident is concerned there are three occasions where the Constitution provides for the dissolution of Parliament. Firstly, there is an exception that the Parliament cannot be dissolved until four and half years.

The other is that, if you get two thirds signatures or consent of the Parliamentarians, then you can dissolve the Parliament. Those are the two areas which they have discussed. But there is a special section which is article 33 under the President’s duties where it is stated that whatever is said and done and whatever the things that had been stated in any of the areas, the President has his own powers. The President has been given several powers which he can use at anytime. One of those is the dissolution of Parliament.

If there are any interested parties, they can go to theSupreme Court but on the face of it, I don’t think there should be anything to be interpreted because the 19th Amendment was argued and challenged before a three bench of the Supreme Court.

On that occasion, the Court considered several inconsistencies in regard to some of the articles, especially the powers given to the Prime Minister and have recommended that the President’s power cannot be delegated to Prime Minister unless you go for a referendum.

So, they ignored this and they amended the particular section and gave the power to the President on which he acted. That is for electing the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

My contention is that this was there before the Supreme Court. The illegal and unconstitutional thing is how can you keep four and half years of public opinion and say that it is constitutional.

The next important and crucial question was how the Speaker will react to that. Earlier, he said he will adhere to the President’s order but thereafter he stated that he is not going to accept the newly elected Prime Minister as the Prime Minister.

With regard to the question of majority, you can’t just go to Parliament and raise your hands and say that we are for Ranil Wickremesinghe or for Mahinda Rajapaksa.

That is not possible. In this situation, the President can form his opinion which nobody can challenge inside Parliament. The President has nothing to do after he summons the Parliament.

President can appoint Prime Minister-Chrishmal Warnasuriya, -Attorney at Law

Now there are constitutional interpreters everywhere. You can find them at road junctions and even on Facebook. We are still studying the constitutional law. Even we find it difficult to interpret the constitution.

If these people who doesn’t even have a basic knowledge of constitutional law, say 42 (4), 43 (1) and 70 (1) and try to interpret the constitution then they create a dispute within society. Therefore, I would like to show some fundamentals to interpret the constitution.

First and foremost we don’t call the Parliament as the Supreme Parliament. Constitution is the only Supreme law of the country. We as the people of the country had created the Supreme law.

By the third article of the Constitution the People’s sovereignty has been vested towards three institutions namely Judiciary, Executive and Legislature. Basically, we must understand what is a government. According to our constitution, our government is the Cabinet of Ministers. But we don’t appoint a Prime Minister just like in the Westminster tradition of England.

“We don’t have a Prime Minister and a Cabinet appointed by the public. According to the Constitution, we only send members to the legislature through an election.

If we take the US, there the President selects his Cabinet externally, not through the Congress. That is where the confusion arises.

Here the President selects his Cabinet under the provisions of article 43 (1), the President shall in consultation of the Prime Minister, which means only if he wishes to ask the PM, he can choose Ministers, number of Ministries, their subjects and duties by his sole decision. If we oppose that we have to change the Constitution.

The President appoints the Prime Minister from the Cabinet of Ministers. We should not confuse it with the Westminster tradition. I believe ,our Prime Minister shouldn’t be called the Prime Minister. If we called the Prime Minister by another name, the confusion triggered in the last few days wouldn’t happen.

“We could name the Sri Lankan Prime Minister as executive assistant to the President. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister is different to the Prime Minister in UK. The word Prime Minister is derived from the Latin word Primus inter pares. It means first among equals. Under the 42 (4) the Sri Lankan Prime Minister is appointed by the President to run his government.