International

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa rules out reconvening Parliament

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka. Photo: File

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka. Photo: File  

‘Opposition parties engage in a narrow political agenda’.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday ruled out reconvening the dissolved Parliament using his discretionary powers.

In a letter signed by his secretary — released to the media on Friday — the President said the Opposition parties “do not believe in holding elections and instead engage in a narrow political agenda at a crucial time when the government is striving to safeguard public health, social security and welfare”.

Testing time as Sri Lanka fights virus

The letter comes days after leaders of major political parties in Opposition wrote to President Rajapaksa, urging him to reconvene Parliament that he dissolved on March 2, using his discretionary powers, to enhance the country’s coronavirus (COVID-19) response by passing “necessary laws”. Further, they pledged “responsible cooperation”, assuring the President that they would not draw salaries or thwart any “legitimate actions” of the government.

However, President Rajapaksa said the requirement to abide by Article 70 (7) of Sri Lanka’s Constitution didn’t arise. He was referring to the article evoked by the Opposition that says that if “the President is satisfied that an emergency has arisen of such a nature that an earlier meeting of Parliament is necessary”, he may summon the dissolved legislature by proclamation.

Polls postponed

Sri Lanka’s Election Commission postponed the general elections — earlier scheduled for April 25 — to June 20 in the wake of COVID-19, but many Opposition parties have objected to the new date, citing likely public health risks. Some have also pointed to the risk of an “imminent constitutional crisis” posed by the new poll date, as the Constitution requires Parliament to be summoned not later than three months after the proclamation dissolving the House [March 2]. President Rajapaksa has earlier said the poll date was the prerogative of the Election Commission.

 

Sri Lanka reported a total of 671 cases as of Friday. The country saw a spike in the number of cases after over 200 Navy personnel tested positive last week. Sri Lanka has been in near-total lockdown since March 20, with government-imposed curfews in high-risk districts, including Colombo that has the most number of cases.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has invited all MPs of the last Parliament for a meeting at Temple Trees, his official residence, on Monday. PM Rajapaksa earlier convened a party leaders’ meeting to discuss Sri Lanka’s response to COVID-19.

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 9:04:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lankan-president-gotabaya-rajapaksa-rules-out-reconvening-parliament/article31484331.ece

Next Story