Quo Vadis Sri Lanka?

A Month of Constitutional Crisis – and no end in sight
constitutional crisis in sri lanka commentary fnf sri lanka

The chain of events sparked on October 26 has left many Sri Lankans angry, frustrated, and bewildered. The prompt proroguing of Parliament, the changing of reconvening dates, the disgraceful effort to bribe MPs to crossover, and the reconvening of Parliament after the Supreme Court stayed the Gazette dissolving Parliament, as well as the disgraceful behavior within the well of the House, have all been minutely covered. So, too, were the two votes on the No Confidence Motion, the vote after MP Rajapaksa made a statement to the House and the walkout by his supporters when it became evident they would not be able to show majority during a vote to appoint the Selection Committee on November 23. Parliament was reconvened soon later and the Rajapaksa led fraction boycotted the sessions.

President Sirisena, throughout the last month, has stubbornly refused to accept the No Confidence Motion, despite 122 Members of Parliament voting “Aye” to a No Confidence on Rajapaksa as the Premier on two occasions. Further, despite being unable to prove majority in Parliament, and in clear contravention to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya stating he does not recognize a Prime Minister, Cabinet or Government, President Sirisena continues to hold Cabinet meetings and make decisions whose legality is in question. The controversy of the dissolution of Parliament has totally gripped the country, economy, socio-political life and the Legislature.

Deplorable manner

Never before has Sri Lanka witnessed her parliament or parliament procedures violated in such a deplorable manner.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suspended all its projects in the country. Lonely Planet had named Sri Lanka as the best tourist destination for 2019. Now, with 23 countries announcing Sri Lanka as “unstable” the best tourist destination may become just a dream.   

The President lets know he is planning to bypass Parliament to fund the government and legislature. Since 2015, Sri Lanka introduced and implemented the Right to Information Act, established institutions and put in place several mechanisms to fight bribery and  corruption. Today, the blatant and complete disregard for cardinal democratic principles by the Sirisena-Rajapaksa fraction has shocked not only those who have fought hard to elevate Sri Lanka’s democratic positions, but also the general public at large.

Sri Lankan citizenry has been subjected to a spectacle of Members of Parliament behaving like common hooligans:

Throwing chairs and water bottles at the Speaker, slapping police men trying to safe guard the Speaker, throwing chili powder at opposing MPs, destroying parliament property like the desk microphones, chairs and valuable books were done with complete nonchalance.

Crucial Role of Supreme Court

All eyes are now turned towards the Supreme Court. This Friday, all 122 MPs – comprising members of the UNF, JVP and TNA parties – filed an application for a Writ of Quo Warranto against MP Rajapaksa. This challenges MP Rajapaksa to prove on what authority he holds office as Prime Minister, after the Legislature voted twice to defeat him on November 14 and 16 respectively. If he is unable to do so, he may have to rescind the title of “Prime Minister” still being attributed to him by his supporters. The application may be taken up as early as this week, and the decision could shift political winds ahead of the decision on the dissolution of Parliament, expected on December 6 or 7.

On that date the infamous dissolution of Parliament will again be argued for and against before the Supreme Court which will consist of seven, instead of the original three.The Attorney General (AG), the Chief Law Officer of the Executive asked for a fuller bench, and he got it. 

The entire country is eagerly awaiting these crucial decisions. Therein resides the gravity of the Supreme Court. Annals of the country’s court system have not seen a decision of such magnitude and scope, a decision of such weight and burden and a decision of such historic consequence and legacy. The Justices will be remembered for the decision they render on the dissolution of Parliament. This decision will be their legacy. The decision to make Sri Lanka sane again is one of supreme consequence.

Sagarica Delgoda FNF Sri Lanka

Sagarica Delgoda

Sagarica Delgoda is the Head of Country Office Sri Lanka of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) in Colombo. In this commentary she shares her personal views.