Sri Lanka court stays dissolution, snap elections

Speaker to convene Parliament today

November 14, 2018 01:04 am | Updated 08:28 am IST - COLOMBO

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. File

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. File

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed President Maithripala Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament and restrained the Election Commission from preparing for snap elections.

After hearing 11 petitioners and respondents for two days, the top court suspended until December 7, the proclamation issued by Mr. Sirisena last week sacking the legislature and calling for elections on January 5.

The ruling comes amid a fortnight-long political upheaval.

Following the ruling, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya convened Parliament on Wednesday. Mr. Jayasuriya will first meet representatives of all parties at 8.30 a.m. and reconvene the House at 10 a.m. “All MPs are requested to attend,” he said in a statement.

Wickremesinghe upbeat

As those opposed to Mr. Sirisena’s actions welcomed the apex court’s ruling, a spokesman at ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office told The Hindu : “We have the numbers. We are ready to prove it in Parliament on Wednesday.”

It remains unclear if the House will take up a floor test on Wednesday but its reconvening, nearly three weeks after it was prorogued, and subsequently dissolved — comes as good news to parties that deemed the President’s sudden actions unconstitutional.

Mr. Wickremesinghe tweeted: “The people have won their first victory. Let’s go forward and re-establish the sovereignty of the people in our beloved country.”

Speaking for the Sirisena camp, Nimal Siripala de Silva said the respondents would ask for revision of the decision by a fuller Bench.

President Sirisena’s November 9 decision to dissolve Parliament came shortly after his party publicly admitted to lacking a majority in the House, heightening a political crisis that began on October 26. In a snap move, Mr. Sirisena fired his PM Wickremesinghe, installed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place, and swiftly swore in a “new cabinet”, in the face of strong local and international criticism.

In exactly two weeks, Mr. Sirisena dissolved Parliament, preventing a vote on the House to test the rival camps’ claims to majority. Almost all political parties, except those aligned to the Sirisena-Rajapaksa front, petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday, challenging the “illegal” action. One independent election commissioner joined them.

A formidable line-up of senior lawyers represented the 11 petitioners who made submissions to the three-member Bench led by the country’s Chief Justice Nalin Perera. The Attorney General responded on Tuesday, invoking the President’s plenary powers in the Constitution to argue that his actions were constitutional. The CJ read out the order around 6 p.m.

“This is the most important order the Supreme Court has delivered in its history,” said Tamil legislator M.A. Sumanthiran.

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