Languishing for the past three weeks in uncertainty while two governments and two Prime Ministers squabble as to which one is the legitimate one, with a belligerent President insisting the ones he has appointed remain, befuddled Sri Lankans now look up to the heavens and the judiciary hoping for a final settlement.
With the Supreme Court suspending till December 07 the gazette notification issued by President Maithripala Sirisena who on November 09 dissolved parliament and ordered fresh elections on January 5, there is the general belief that the independence of the judiciary will prevail as a silver lining amidst the dark and murky political clouds that hover over Sri Lanka at present.
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The Supreme Court is now looking into cases relating to the dissolution of parliament. It will be hearing arguments for and against on December 4, 5 and 6 and will be giving a decision before the stay of the dissolution ends on December 7.
If the court approves dissolution, parliament will have a fresh election on January 5, 2019 as per the President’s proclamation and a new parliament will meet on January 17 ,2019.
If the court says that the dissolution is unlawful on the grounds that it cannot be dissolved unless four and a half years has passed since parliament met for the first time in August 2015, President Sirisena will have to accept until August 2020 the present unfavorable composition of parliament.Currently the UNP and its alliance members hold a clear majority in the 225-member House.
Since President Sirisena’s lament is that he cannot work withRanil Wickremesinghe as the PM, and has vowed that he will not re-appoint him under any circumstances the President’s favoured alternative PM is Sajith Premadasa, deputy leader of the UNP.
UNP sources said Saturday that Premadasa is reluctant to defy his party chief Wickremesinghe. Premadasa has further stated that he would be PM only with the full backing of the UNP and that he will not accept any post if it will create problems and aggravate the present crisis.
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President Sirisena is meanwhile insisting that he cannot accept the two No Confidence Motion (NCM) passed against PM Mahinda Rajapaksa on 14 November and 16 November.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, a senior UNPeris being accused of being partisan to his party.
The UNP, the Marxist JVP, the Tamil party, the TNA and the two Muslim parties, SLMC and ACMC have collectively supported the two NCMs and insist that all parliamentary norms have been fulfilled. But the Rajapaksa-Sirisena camp is shouting itself hoarse that the due process is not followed.
The relevant procedure in regard to NCMs is as follows:
An NCM backed by at least20 MPs must to be submitted to the Speaker. The Speaker shall check with the Secretary General of parliament the legality of the NCM. On securing the assent of the Secretary General, the Speaker should record it in the Order Book and the relevant Order Book should be printed and distributed among all MPs on a Friday.
Matters in the Order Book should be taken up by the Business Committee of the House including the Speaker, Leaders of the House etc.
Thereafter the NCM should be taken up for debate in the House after a minimum of five working days. The most recent date will be fixed by the Leader of the House.
Parliament is responsible for carrying out the above process according to the constitution, Standing Order as well parliamentary traditions and procedures.
These were not followed on the two occasions when the NCM was passed in the past week where Standing Orders were suspended by the Speaker during Friday’s sessions but could be argued that this is in line with the parliamentary procedures, given the extraordinary situation that was at hand with thuggery and hooliganism being resorted to by pro Rajapaksa parliamentarians.
According to the Standing Orders of parliament any one or more of the Standing Orders may be suspended on a motion made after notice by a majority of Members of Parliament for any special business to be considered and parliamentarians opposing Rajapaksa state that they followed this regulation to the letter.
However, the NCM presented by the JVP, accepted by the Speaker and put to vote immediately after suspending the Standing Orders, is found faulty by the Rajapaksa-Sirisena side (which is now the government) demanding that the general norms of the procedures undertaken on any normal day should have been followed.
The Speaker passing the motion on a voice votes amidst the prevailing din and violence is declared by the Rajapaksa-Sirisena clan as a collaborative move done to protect the UNP.
Meanwhile, despite the clamour by his rivals to strip him of his Premiership Mahinda Rajapaksa last week used his Finance Minister portfolio to the utmost to fuel his public popularity by reducing petrol and diesel prices. Fuel prices saw a regular sky rocketing under the sacked UNP regime who handled all financial related matters.
Within three weeks, the preparation of the neo liberal 2019 budget of the United National Party (UNP) which has been going on for the past three months, has been replaced with the protectionist/populist finance plan of Rajapaksa.The new Prime Minister cum Finance Minister is yet to present a Vote on Account which has to be passed by January 5th to enable the government to meet its routine expenditure.
It is clear that Rajapaksa is keeping the bigger picture in mind and aiming for a general election which will help him consolidate power fully and hence is likely to draw an all-encompassing financial plan that will help him woo the rural masses which is his ready-made voter base as compared to the UNP’s urban centric following
Some analysts feel that this 23-day old saga unleashed by President Sirisena because he could not work with his then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has served only to resurrect the UNP from the pit of unpopularity it had fallen to in the eyes of the people and make the party seem like martyrs for democracy. In the local government election in Februarythis year the UNP of Wickremesinghe and the SLFP led by President Sirisena did abysmally, with the SLPP, the new party of Mahinda Rajapaksa achieving a landmark victory.