Sri Lankan opposition parties have decided to move the Supreme Court on Monday to challenge the dissolution of Parliament by President Maithrapala Sirisena after his Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse faced trust vote defeat.
The United National Party, the Janatha Vimukta Peramuna and the Tamil National Alliance have said the President is guilty of double jeopardy in replacing Ranil Wickremasinghe with Rajapakse as Prime Minister and then dissolving Parliament ahead of its term and announcing elections on Jan 5 next year.
Senior UNP spokesman and former Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said “the emerging tyranny of Sirisena will be fought in courts, in Parliament and in elections”.
A member of the Tamil National Alliance and a top Supreme Court lawyer M A Sumanthiran told reporters in Colombo on Saturday that “we are going to the Supreme Court first thing in the morning on Monday.”
The TNA had 16 members in the dissolved House and it held the key to the standoff between oustedr Ranil Wickremasinghe and Sirisena.
The leftist Janata Vimumthi Peramuna has also said the President’s action is unconstitutional and is liable to challenge. It is also expected to approach the Supreme Court.
The opposition parties decided to take the legal route after the Election Commissioner told them that he has no power to overrule the President’s gazette notification and only courts can go into it.
The opposition’s point of view was best stated by the Lawyers of Democracy which said the dissolution of Parliament “is arbitrary, unconstitutional and undemocratic.”
It said that Art 70 of the Constitution expressly prohibits the President from dissolving Parliament without two-thirds of the Parliament approving a resolution requesting him to do so at any time during the first 4-1/2 years of its term.” He has only power to summon or prorogue Parliament, not dissolve it ahead of its term unless it has only six months left.
It pointed out that the President actively obstructed Parliament from meeting, despite a written request from a majority (116) of MPs as well as the Speaker to summon it for a floor test.
"The obstruction of Parliament by a sudden prorogation was done without consulting the Speaker as per Parliamentary tradition,” it said.
The opposition is relying on the specific provision, Art 19, which was introduced through an amendment in 2004 after then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament ahead of its term in 2004 to get rid of the very same Ranil Wickremasinghe during his earlier tenure as Prime Minister after a similar faceoff.
In a message thanking his supporters, Ranil Wickremasinghe has said”you have not let this country plunge into dictatorship”. Mahinda Rajapakse, on the other hand, said in a tweet that”a general election will truly establish the will of the people and make for a stable country”.