Sri Lanka’s double acting legislator unseated by court – update
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan actress-turned-politician Geetha Kumarasinghe was today unseated from parliament by the Court of Appeal, which held she was disqualified to contest the August 2015 general election.
The two-judge bench also ordered the attorney general to recover all payments, the cost of perquisites, including a duty free car permit with a market value of 22 million rupees, that she was granted since taking her oath of office as a member of parliament in August 2015.
The court ruled in favour of petitioners who said Kumarasinghe, 61, was in violation of the 19th amendment to the constitution, which prohibits dual nationals from holding any elected office. Kumarasinghe who was elected as a member of the United People’s Freedom Alliance is a Swiss national according to several recent newspaper interviews she herself had given.
In an order signed by Justice Vijith K. Malalgoda and Justice P. Padman Surasena, the court held that she had failed to prove that she had renounced her Swiss nationality at the time of filing nominations to contest parliamentary elections. She has 42 working days to appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the vacancy created by Kumarasinghe;s unseating goes to UPFA’s Piyasena Gamage, a supporter of President Sirisena. Kumarasinghe is a strong backer of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Following questions about her nationality, Kumarasinghe said she had written a letter to the Swiss embassy in Colombo asking them to revoke her Swiss nationality. But the Court of Appeal was not convinced she had renounced her Swiss nationality.
Diplomatic sources had pointed out that she could not simply write a letter renouncing her Swiss nationality, but was required to follow a process that involved getting the consent of her Swiss husband.
The 19th amendment to the constitution bars "a citizen of Sri Lanka who is also a citizen of any other country" from holding elected office in the island.
Election officials at the time allowed Kumarasinghe to file her nomination papers because the parliamentary elections act of 1981 had not been amended to include the new provisions of the 19th amendment.
The returning officer, however, noted that anyone could go to court after the election and challenge the inclusion of a dual citizen in the UPFA list.
Kumarasinghe’s website did not give her nationality, but according to her biography she "entered into marriage with Mr Chris Fuhrer Ferdinand (a Swiss national) and has a beautiful daughter, Tharika Fiona Fuhrer."
However, this website is no longer online. (Colombo, May 3, 2017)