Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal restrains Mahinda Rajapaksa from functioning as PM

Mr. Rajapaksa plans to move the Supreme Court against the order.

Updated - December 03, 2021 10:13 am IST

Published - December 03, 2018 04:01 pm IST - COLOMBO

Mahinda Rajapaksa

Mahinda Rajapaksa

Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal on Monday temporarily restrained controversially installed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his purported Cabinet of Ministers from functioning in their respective offices.

The interim order follows a quo warranto petition filed by 122 MPs on November 23, challenging Mr. Rajapaksa’s continuance in office, after losing two trust votes in Parliament on November 14 and 16.

Mr. Rajapaksa has decided to appeal in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, as he is “not in agreement with the interim order.”

‘On whose authority?’

The appeal court has asked the former President and his Ministers to explain, on whose authority they continued in office despite the legislature voting them out twice.

“The damage that may be caused by temporarily restraining a lawful Cabinet from functioning would in all probability be outweighed by the damage caused by allowing a set of persons not entitled in law to function as Prime Ministers or Ministers,” observed Justice Preethi Padman Surasena.

Over the last month, Mr. Rajapaksa and his team of ‘Ministers’ have taken key decisions on commodity pricing and have signed foreign deals.


‘Breach of procedure’

Mr. Rajapaksa and President Maithripala Sirisena, who appointed him in place of incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a widely criticised move, are yet to recognise the outcome of the votes in Parliament, citing “breach of procedure.”

MPs opposed to Mr. Rajapaksa’s appointment have shown a majority in the House as many as six times in the last three weeks.

While their manoeuvre in the legislature proved inadequate to oust Mr. Rajapaksa’s disputed government, Monday’s appeal court order delivered a legal blow to the legitimacy that the Rajapaksa camp claims.

The interim order is the second major setback for President Sirisena since October 26, the day he abruptly replaced Mr. Wickremesinghe with Mr. Rajapaksa. On November 13, the Supreme Court stayed Mr. Sirisena's dissolution of Parliament and restrained the Election Commission from preparing for snap polls. Hearing on the case resumes on Tuesday.

However, Mr. Sirisena is unwilling to back down from his earlier refusal to work with Mr. Wickremesinghe, despite his front unanimously nominating him for the post of Prime Minister.

“The meeting was inconclusive,” MP and All Ceylon Makkal Congress Rishad Bathiudeen told The Hindu . “The President told us he is yet to see the full text of today’s [Monday’s] interim order and that he would take a call on it tomorrow,” he said, minutes after a delegation — of leaders representing Mr. Wickremesinghe’s front — met Mr. Sirisena.

Political prisoners

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) legislators earlier on Monday, President Sirisena had reportedly observed there was “no Prime Minister or government in the country”, in the wake of the appeal court order. He assured he would take “necessary action within 24 hours”, according to TNA MP Dharmalingam Sithadthan, who attended the meeting.

The meeting had been scheduled for a discussion on the possible release of political prisoners held under Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act. “Officials from the Attorney General’s department went through a list of political prisoners and the status of their cases. Mr. Sampanthan urged the President not to take a purely legalistic view of the matter as it was a political issue,” TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran said.

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