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Sri Lanka opposition to move court over parliament recall

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is headed for a Constitutional crisis after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa rejected an offer from the joint opposition to summon Parliament before the deadline for the President to spend money passed by Parliament by the Vote on Account ended today.
A spokesman for the Opposition told EconomyNext that the President’s reply to the letter sent by the main opposition parties on April 27 has reached the office of the former Leader of the Opposition and current leader of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Sajith Premadasa today.
In the letter, the President has said he sees no requirement to recall Parliament as elections have already been called for June 20.
Former Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that under the Constitution the President is not empowered to spend state funds after today and if he does so he is in violation of the country’s basic law.
“We will go to court,” the former Leader of the House told EconomyNext. “Any funds that are used through the back-door will make te officials withdrawing and deploying the funds liable,” he said.
The thinking in the opposition camp is that by postponing the reconvening of Parliament by today’s deadline the President is clearly in violation of the Constitution.
“Therefore we see no other alternative but to go to court,” an opposition source said.
On April 27 seven major opposition parties wrote to Rajapaksa pledging their joint unconditional support to the President in Parliament to solve the impending crisis.
The parties, which did not include the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, pointed out that the optimism that prevailed in the country until a few weeks ago that the epidemic could be controlled is receding.
“If further spreading of the pandemic is not decisively halted in the coming few weeks, the country will face the risk of the prevailing public health crisis being compounded by crisis situations in the economic, social and political spheres too,” the statement said.
The document signed by Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sajith Premadasa, R Sampanthan, Mano Ganesan, Rauff Hakeem, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Rishad Bathiudeen, pointed out that although elections have been called for June 20, it is unlikely that conditions would be conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has invited all members of the dissolved Parliament to meet him at Temple Trees on Monday, May 4.
Kiriella also said that the action suggested to the government when the COVID 19 crisis broke was not heeded.
“Sajith Premadasa proposed that our airport be closed on January 24 and on February 5 in Parliament.”
It is not known whether the meeting is connected to the current constitutional crisis.
Constitutional experts have been asking the President to rescind his dissolution of Parliament so that the country could avert a crisis in the middle of an ever-expanding COVID 19 epidemic.
If Parliament does meet, it could have passed the monies required to fight the epidemic. The President could then have dissolved Parliament in September at the natural end of this Parliament’s legal term and elections could have legally been postponed for December.
This would have given the government the breathing space to get over the worst of the epidemic.
In the past six days, the number of new cases of the virus has doubled and the disease has spread to almost all parts of the country.
The biggest cluster of patients has come from the Navy camp at Welisara where more than 200 personnel have tested positive.
Many sailors who were on leave also went to their homes outside the Colombo and Gampaha districts causing the disease to spread to a large part of the country. (Colombo, April 30, 2020)

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