It is more than a month since the country has struggled with a Constitutional cum Political crisis that has created a sense of uncertainty within the country as well as inviting unfavourable attention worldwide. It is unfortunate that when a clear way out is available to resolve the issue, no attempt is being made to [...]


General Elections will not resolve constitutional crisis


It is more than a month since the country has struggled with a Constitutional cum Political crisis that has created a sense of uncertainty within the country as well as inviting unfavourable attention worldwide. It is unfortunate that when a clear way out is available to resolve the issue, no attempt is being made to put the country back on track by adopting the solution that is staring one in the face.

Leaving aside for the moment the question whether the President was within his Constitutional rights to (a) remove Ranil Wickremesinghe from the office of Prime Minister and (b) appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister instead, the chaos that has resulted by such actions has to be quickly arrested and order brought back.

The events relating to the happenings after October 26, can be resolved by finding the answer to one simple question—who commands the confidence of the majority in Parliament. The answer to this question is clear and it has to be translated into immediate action.

If the President wants to be doubly sure all he has to do is to come to Parliament and take his Presidential seat and request the Speaker to conduct a floor test in his presence and act on the outcome by immediately appointing the Prime Minister who commands the majority in Parliament as he is constitutionally required to do.

The failure to do so expeditiously will be a great disservice to the country and ultimately to the people who will be called upon to pay the price for the reckless actions of some of their elected representatives.

When such a simple way out for the country is available it is disturbing to observe the call for General Elections as a way out of the impasse being articulated by various learned and not so learned quarters. None of the proponents of a General Election in their press conferences, public petitions and public meetings actually spell out how the costly exercise of a general election will help to resolve the plight the country is in today.

All that a general election can do is to elect a new Parliament in which a new configurations of political forces may emerge. Such an outcome is by no means certain but is only a possibility. All those who advocate a general election do so in the belief and hope that the Mahinda Rajapakse led political alliance will obtain a clear victory at such a poll.

Whether such an outcome will emerge is a moot question in the light of the clear division of opinion appearing in the ranks of the SLFP and Sri Lanka Podujana Party both at leadership level and grass root level as well as the reports of the overall drop in the popularity of the SLFP/SLPP consequent to the happenings of the past month.

Two instances of such differences are the stands taken by S.B.Dissanayake and Kumar Welgama. At a recent press conference Mr. Dissanayake appealed to the President to withdraw the gazette to dissolve Parliament and stated that he was of the view that the provincial council elections should be held first followed by the presidential elections after which the parliamentary elections should be held only in 2020.

Mr. Welgama has repeatedly stated publicly that in the absence of a clear majority in Parliament they should not attempt to hold on to power which is not the view held by Mr. Dissanayake and others in the Mahinda Rqjapakse camp. The tussle for nominations between electoral organisers of the SLFP and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna will also most certainly have an impact on the electoral fortunes of the alliance.

Assuming for the purpose of argument that the SLFP/SLPP combine wins a clear majority in a new Parliament, there is no guarantee that the President will swear in as Prime Minister the nominee of the SLPP. He may prefer to appoint a Member of the SLFP (of which he is the leader) like Nimal Siripala de Silva in preference to someone from the SLPP. This will be consistent with the President’s (wrong) belief that he has veto powers to reject the person who commands the confidence of the majority in Parliament and instead appoint someone whom he prefers.

On the other hand what if the UNP-led combine gets a clear majority in Parliament . According to the President’s current thinking he will not appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister even if he commands the confidence of the majority in Parliament. Then once again the country will be back to square one.

If the new Parliament results in a hung Parliament (which is the most likely scenario) once again the country will be faced with a situation similar to the current deadlock.

Thus it is stretching the imagination to imagine that a general election will get the country out of the quagmire it has got itself into by not conforming to the constitutional provisions.

Besides the whole process of a general election will take considerable time and the country will continue to bleed with the uncertainty hanging over its head. By the time the dust settles after parliamentary elections and a Prime Minister is installed in office a period of at least three months will elapse which will take its toll on the economy and eventually on the people without any certainty that the current impasse will be resolved.

Another noteworthy feature of those who espouse the cause of a General Election is that they do not urge political parties to deny nomination to those who broke chairs, threw chillie powder, brought in weapons, threw books, assaulted policemen and generally behaved in a manner so as to bring disrepute to Parliament.

Most of the current MPs may be returned to Parliament and there will be no qualitative difference in the composition of the Legislature. This will mean that the conduct of business in an orderly fashion will continue to be problematic.

The origin of the crisis were the gazettes issued by the President purporting to remove Ranil Wickremesinghe from the office of Prime Minister and purporting to appoint Mahinda Rajapakse in his place. The trail of events that have engulfed the country thereafter have cost the country dear but none of these has been of the peoples’ making. Thus it would be unfair to ask them to foot the bill for a general election which in all probability will not resolve the current impasse but may well plunge the country into further anarchy.

If the Mahinda Rajapakse led political alliance wishes to push for a general election (other than as a means of getting out of the current impasse) they are within their democratic right to do so. The Constitution has provided for such situations and clearly sets out the way it can realize its objective of a change in Government.

After the passage of the 19th Amendment the Parliament cannot be dissolved for a period of four and a half years unless Parliament resolves to do so by a two third majority. They could try this option by moving a resolution in Parliament and persuading the members to ensure a two third majority.

The other alternative would be to move a no confidence motion on the Government and have it adopted by Parliament or defeat the Appropriation Bill. Both these options if successful will ensure a change of Government and the SLPP will be able to form a Government even without a General Election. In fact the opportunity for this would have become available this month if the UNF Government was allowed to present its budget as scheduled on November 5.

The other option would be to defeat the Statement of Government Policy whenever it is presented. Thus the SLFP/SLPP alliance could have achieved its objective of assuming office if it pursued the democratic options laid down in the Constitution without putting the country through an ordeal of uncertainty.

Two Parliamentarians Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha and Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera on Thursday called for a resolution of the crisis through talks between the President and the Speaker. Both President Maitripala Sirisena and Karu Jayasuriya immediately responded to the call and held talks the very same day. The way out is very clear and simple and the country lives in hope. But a successful outcome can only be achieved if the political will is present.


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