Speaker compromised role in Parliament - Former CJ

Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva said Speaker Karu Jayasuriya through his statement had compromised the independence of his role in Parliament and acted above and beyond his Constitutional powers.

“I regret that the Speaker has issued such a statement. The honourable Speaker’s position has been respected in the Constitution. The present Speaker was elected through the UNP National List to Parliament and the members appointed him as Speaker. The Constitution clearly states that his sole function is to preside during the sittings of Parliament.

And he presides on the basis of a neutral person, he is the umpire, he has no role outside this,”the former Chief Justice said.

The former Chief Justice in an interview with the Daily News said the Speaker had no power to recognise or not recognise a government.

He explained that as the head of the Legislature, the Speaker has to recognise persons appointed by the Executive, no matter who they are, “Thereafter, what happens in Parliament is a different question.They can then move a vote of no confidence. But the Speaker should hold his hand until then,” the former Chief Justice said.

“He is now playing the role of the umpire by listening only to a few players,” he said.

Silva pointed out that the legislature was not a matter of ‘conscience’ as the Speaker highlighted in his letter, “Earlier, acting according to his conscience he crossed over to the UPFA and accepted a ministerial portfolio, thereafter he came back- again according to his conscience. But this cannot be done according to his conscience. He must first identify what his role is. His role is to preside over Parliament in a neutral position. The moment he is perceived to be taking sides, it becomes difficult for him to control Parliament”.

“The very fact that he has entertained a letter (from 116 MPs) shows he has gone out of his role. The Constitution does not allow members to submit letters to the Speaker, especially outside of Parliament sittings. That gives the impression that he is partisan”.

As a means of resolution to the current political crisis, the former Chief Justice urged the President to dissolve and to go in for fresh elections to decide once and for all, who had the power to govern.

The Sovereignty of the Republic of Sri Lanka rests with the people and no one else. So at such an instance, the President should dissolve Parliament and let the people decide who should govern them, he said.

He explained that though the 19th Amendment to the Constitution amended Article 70 of the Constitution to read that Parliament can only be dissolve after 4.5 years and with a two third majority, it also introduced Article 33 which stated that the President as the Executive had the power to summon, prorogue or dissolve Parliament,

“In 2002, the Supreme Court decreed that the 19th Amendment introduced by the Ranil Wickremesinghe government at the time could not remove the President’s power to dissolve Parliament without calling for a referendum. Dissolution has always been an Executive power and can’t be taken away, without a referendum. So Article 33 had to be included in the current 19th Amendment to keep the power to dissolve Parliament in the hands of the President, otherwise the 19th Amendment would have needed a referendum”.

“The President has the power and should only exercise it when circumstances require. Given the instability, in the interest of the country and the people, Parliament should be dissolved,” said the former CJ.

Former Chief Justice Sarath N.Silva. Picture by Ruwan de Silva.

 

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