Sampanthan questions legitimacy of MR’s appointment as Opposition Leader | Sunday Observer

Sampanthan questions legitimacy of MR’s appointment as Opposition Leader

Former Opposition Leader and TNA Leader R. Sampanthan questioned the legitimacy of appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new Opposition Leader claiming that “there is clear and definite conflict of interest between the duties and functions performed by the President and the duties and functions of Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition”, in an extensive statement in Parliament on Friday (25).

He explained that both President Maithripala Sirisena and Rajapaksa belong to the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and its constituent party the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

In a statement on December 19, 2018, Sampanthan brought the matter up during a Parliamentary session. Referring to the same he said, “I stated that in September 2015 as the Leader of the Illankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) the second largest party in opposition in the Sri Lankan Parliament you recognised me as the Leader of the Opposition.

Further, in August 2018 as the Leader of the ITAK the second largest party in Parliament you once again recognised me as the Leader of the Opposition. On both these occasions you recognised the Leader of the second largest party in Parliament as the leader of the Opposition for the reason that the largest party in the Opposition in Parliament the UPFA was also represented in Government.”

The Deputy Speaker who responded to this in early January made no reference to UPFA being represented in the Government, nor how Sampanthan was recognised as the leader of the second largest party on the two occasions mentioned above.

The former Opposition Leader said the issue raised needs to be addressed through the relevant Constitutional provisions, Parliamentary practices and conventions and the relevant facts relating to the conflict of interest between the Offices of the Head of the Government and the Opposition Leader. He also drew attention to Article 51 of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, the current President as long as he holds the Office of President may assign to himself the subjects and functions of Defence, Mahaweli Development and Environment.

Sampanthan stressed that ITAK- the Tamil National Alliance- is currently the second largest party in Parliament.

He concluded his statement by saying he considers it his duty that the Constitution and its practices and conventions are followed.

“I wish to make it perfectly clear that I do so not because I or the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are hankering after office. We have never sought office,” he noted adding that they believe the rights of minority political parties and rights of the minority people “should not be jeopardised by manipulating or subverting either the Constitution or accepted constitutional practices and conventions so as to serve the interests of individuals catering to majoritarianism.”

He said, I do further think that rights which Constitutionally accrue to minority parties and minority peoples should be protected and preserved.

However, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya rejected his claims saying the President has the right to hold a Cabinet portfolio while a member of the party he represent serve as the Opposition Leader. He interjected that Rajapaksa was appointed to the position on customary basis pertaining that his party has the majority in the opposition.

He added that there were occasions where a President held a Cabinet position when the Opposition Leader’s position was held by a member of his own party.

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