Sacking of Sri Lanka parliament illegal: commissioner
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s independent Election Commission believes that President Maithripala Sirisena calling parliamentary elections nearly two years ahead of schedule was illegal and unconstitutional, a commissioner told the Supreme Court Monday.
Ratnajeevan Hoole in his five-page petition to the court said that all three of the commissioner agreed that the President Sirisena’s proclamation dissolving parliament and calling a snap election was illegal.
“However, the other two commissioners expressed the view that the Commission should proceed with preparations for the conducting of the election irrespective of the legality of the proclamation,” Hoole said.
He refused to sign an order conferring powers on the Commissioner General of Elections to start the process because he felt strongly that they should not act on the basis of an illegal and unconstitutional proclamation.
“As a member of the Elections Commission he is required to be independent and impartial and to act according to law and as such he is required to take informed decisions on matters and taking decisions on legality and illegality of matters do not compromise his independence or impartiality,” Hoole’s lawyer said in the petition on his behalf.
He cited a Supreme Court decision which slapped strictures on the then elections commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake for obeying an illegal order of then president Chandrika Kumaratunga.
The Supreme Court at the time had told Dissanayake that he should have sought judicial orders before carrying out illegal directives of the executive.
“While I appreciate the difficult situation in which he was, nevertheless it is necessary to remember that the constitution assures him (Dissanayake) independence so that he may fearlessly insist on due compliance with the law in regard to all aspects of elections – even if necessary by instituting appropriate legal proceedings in order to obtain judicial orders,” according to the judgement of a three-judge bench headed by chief justice G. P. S de Silva in case SC FR 509/98
Hoole argued that Sirisena’s actions were unconstitutional, illegal and was against the people of Sri Lanka and hence demanded the restoration of status quo prevailing prior to October 26.
Hoole’s position that the president’s actions were against the constitution strengthens the argument of 10 other petitions seeking a declaration against Sirisena’s controversial move of sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister on October 26 and appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place.
The court will have to decide if it will grant leave to proceed to the petitioner to take up the cases for hearing. The court is also asked to decide on interim relief by way of a stay order against the elections commissioner general against making preparations to hold a vote on January 5 as decreed by Sirisena.
They also want the president’s proclamation suspending parliament declared invalid so that the assembly could continue to function and decide on who enjoys a majority in the 225-member assembly. (COLOMBO, November 12, 2018)