MPs challenge Rajapaksa in court

Continuing his fight: Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, right, stands with lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran in Parliament in Colombo on Friday.

Continuing his fight: Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, right, stands with lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran in Parliament in Colombo on Friday.

As many as 122 Sri Lankan lawmakers on Friday challenged former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the court of appeal, asking on whose authority he occupied the office of the Prime Minister, after being voted out in the legislature.

The case is likely to be heard early next week, legal sources told The Hindu .

The MPs, who filed the Quo Warranto petition challenging Mr. Rajapaksa, his purported Cabinet and government, earlier disputed his controversial appointment as Prime Minister in the legislature.

No-confidence votes

They voted out Mr. Rajapaksa in the 225-member House in two no-confidence motions last week, which his supporters have rejected, citing “breach of parliamentary procedure”.

However, the Speaker ruled that a majority in the House had voted against Mr. Rajapaksa in a motion that adhered to the rule book.

The Speaker’s declaration was subsequently published in the Hansard (official transcripts of parliamentary proceedings) and is likely to be produced as evidence in the case.

The move — the second legal manoeuvre from MPs opposed to Mr. Rajapaksa — is the latest in the series of developments since October 26, when President Maithripala Sirisena suddenly sacked incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and installed Mr. Rajapaksa in the office.

Amid a heightening political crisis, the MPs had petitioned the Supreme Court seeking an interim order staying President Sirisena’s earlier dissolution of Parliament. The apex court, which stayed the sacking of Parliament, is expected to give an order on December 7.

Out of sight

Even as a resolution in Parliament remains out of sight for the moment, political parties disputing the appointment of Mr. Rajapaksa as Prime Minister secured control of a crucial committee in Parliament on Friday.

The ‘Committee on Selection’ is empowered to take key decisions pertaining to the business of the House, and to set up other parliamentary committees.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya named five legislators each from Mr. Rajapaksa’s front and that of Mr. Wickremesinghe as members.

Opposition parties Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) were represented by one MP each in the 12-member panel to be chaired by the Speaker.

However, Rajapaksa loyalists who wanted two more of their MPs in the committee rejected it, accusing the Speaker of acting with bias.

Just as the Speaker called for a vote on Friday, MPs of the purported new government walked out. As many as 121 legislators endorsed the committee with a vote cast through the electronic system.

With Friday’s vote, Mr. Rajapaksa and his supporters have rejected or walked out of as many as four votes in the last two weeks, including two no-confidence motions against Mr. Rajapaksa and a vote against his speech made in Parliament.

Simple question

Intervening in the adjournment debate, Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan said there was only one “simple question” pertinent to the current situation.

“It is whether the purported Prime Minister enjoys the confidence of this House. If he does, he can be the Prime Minister. If he doesn’t, he is not the Prime Minister of our country,” he said.

Referring to the violence in Parliament last week, provoked by Rajapaksa loyalists in the wake of the trust vote, he said: “This country and its people were disgraced by their conduct. The legislature was disgraced.”

Amid the persistent political crisis, Sri Lanka’s economy has suffered a huge blow. The Sri Lankan rupee fell to an all-time low to LKR 180 against the U.S. dollar on Friday.

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 12:59:39 pm |