19th amendment STOLE the People’s sovereignty & 20a will do worse
There is a big question mark as to the eligibility of the government that was appointed in 2015 immediately after the election of a President by a Presidential election. At the Presidential Election held on 8th January 2015 the people were exercising their inalienable right to elect the person they saw fit to elect as President. The January election was not a general election/parliamentary election from which the Parliament is elected also by the people after which the party with the largest number of seats selects the person who has the most confidence as the Prime Minister. In January 2015, the UPFA were in the majority & the UNP was a minority party with just 60 seats. Therefore, how could this minority party become the Governing party after a presidential election & have its leader appointed as the Prime Minister. Furthermore, how can this minority government bring an amendment to the constitution though it managed to buy over all the MPs save 1 MP (Admiral Sarath Weerasekera) to pass the 19thamendment most deviously & sheepishly none of which can overrule the constitutional power vested in the People to elect the President & the Parliament & both of which must go to the People before changing anything that affects the powers given to the people through the constitution.
Article 3 of the constitution clearly states that the sovereignty of Sri Lanka is inalienable & in the hands of the people.
If so, the people had the right to select & elect the President & the Government.
Both President & Parliament have limited powers – limited by the term they serve. Justice Wanasundara delivering the 13th amendment judgment in 1987 clearly stated that MPs are only ‘agents’ of the people. However, there is no fixed term for the People & their right to exercise their sovereignty.
Those elected cannot remove the right of the People and make decisions on their own claiming that to be what the people want. Such was the case with the 19th amendment.
There were 2 clear violations.
- Firstly, in January 2015 a Presidential election was held not a general election therefore how legally valid was it for the President-elect to appoint a PM from a party that didn’t have a majority in Parliament without removing the sitting Prime Minister. At the time of the Presidential Election, UNP comprised only 47 MPs & it was from this 47 that Ranil became the Prime Minister. This was a serious breach of democratic principles & good governance that brought the President to power. From January to August 2015 the country was run by this minority Government propped up by the kangaroos that crossed over after Sirisena became head of both SLFP & UPFA & presented a notion of ‘National Unity Government’ and a 100 day program which was to end on 23 April with dissolution of Parliament & elections – that never happened.
- Secondly, how can Parliament & not the People decide how many years Parliament should prevail and how many years a President’s term should be – Isn’t this a violation of Article 3 of the Constitution that gives inalienable sovereign rights to the people?
While it is the fundamental right of a candidate to contest it is a constitutional right of the voter to decide whether that candidate should be elected again or not. This case was perfectly decided on January 2015 when Mahinda Rajapakse using his right to contest ran for President & the voters decided they did not wish to keep him as President for a third term. This was true democracy in action (leaving aside all other measures that came into play to enable his ouster)
What right did a parliament have to change it without asking the people?
Everybody has forgotten that there was no mention of a national government by either UNP or SLFP in their General Election manifestos of August 2015.
Let us also not forget that Maithripala Sirisena left the SLFP & UPFA to contest as Common Candidate & used the SWAN symbol to contest Presidential Elections in January 2015. After election, he suddenly heads both SLFP & UPFA & peddles notion of a ‘National Government’ which was a political toy to buy in SLFP & UPFA MPs and create a two third majority from which all the changes that were planned by those that orchestrated the regime change could do without any impediments. Thus, the supposed ‘National Government’ ended up doing nothing in the national interest of Sri Lanka but only in the interest of themselves & the parties that were supporting it.
This was another example of the voters being hoodwinked & their powers usurped – how morally correct was it for a person who leaves a party to contest elections as a common candidate to return and head the very coalition he abandoned & then create a ‘national government’ that would enable him to avert the questions about the validity of a minority government in power as an ‘interim government’ & appoint any number of Ministers to push through drastic changes that were earmarked and part of the deal.
The National Government notion was also a great way to completely ignore the promises made in the 100-day program by this interim government which was not a national government but termed a national unity government signed by only two parties – UNP & SLFP covering 10 points.
Another important question that emerges immediately is how only SLFP & UNP can sign MOUs for a National Government when neither UNP nor SLFP contested as single parties at the August 2015 General Elections. If they contested from various alliances should the leaders of these parties also be signatories? UNP contested as UNF so why were the constituent parties omitted from the MOU?
All that was solved by Maithripala Sirisena taking over the reigns of both UPFA & SLFP and then happily dishing out Ministerial portfolios even to voter rejected candidates (in fact out of the 29 national seats 11 seats were given to candidates who were rejected by the voters) Count this as a violation of yahapalana’s promise to deliver democracy & good governance & another example of people’s mandate being violated. How come candidates that the people rejected are holding portfolios in government & living off tax payers money?
Voters trust was violated by Yahapalana too…
The 100 day program announced on 11th January 2015 assured the appointment of a 25member cabinet. But the very next day a 27-member cabinet was announced (27 Cabinet Ministers, 10 State Ministers & 8 Deputy Ministers). By 26th February 2015 the 27 cabinet became 45, non-cabinet became 55 from the 18! With the 19th amendment passed on 28 April 2015 the promised 25 became 30.
Within a month of coming to power the people’s mandate was flouted and within days the issuing of Treasury Bonds that resulted in the largest Bond Scam took place.
Everyone seems to have forgotten that Nimal Siripala de Silva was appointed Opposition Leader on 16th January 2015.
An interim budget was passed by a legally questionable PM assuring to dissolve parliament on 23 April 2015. That never happened. Parliament was eventually dissolved 2 months later on 26 June 2015 that too to prevent the COPE report on the Bond Scam been placed in Parliament.
The voters were violated again by March 2015.
President Sirisena announces a National Government in response to the lack of a majority to push through reforms that were part of the regime change assurances and as such 26 MPs from the SLFP were enticed to form a 77-member government the Opposition MPs were now down to 58 by March 2015.
The present constitution was introduced by the UNP Government in 1978. Since then 17 out of the 19 amendments to the constitution was by the UNP.
19a has a series of violations of the People’s sovereignty vested to them in the constitution.
- The President is elected by the People in an election held separately. Why has the 19a denied the right for the People’s elected highest official in the country the right to dissolve Parliament until 4 ½ years?
- The People were given the right to vote for a President for a term of 6 years, how can a minority Parliament existing on virtually buying MPs to form the National Unity Government to pass the 19a cut short the term to 5 years?
- While the President is directly elected by the People, the Prime Minister is not. Why has the 19a denied the right of the People’s nominee to remove or change the Prime Minister?
- The President directly elected by the People was head of the cabinet, why has 19a usurped this and handed it to a PM whose position is legally questioned?
- The present government came to power promising a country that would be ruled without corruption & with an initially 25 which turned to 30-member cabinet, why was this assurance violated by the 19a & the creation of a national unity government simply to enable them to entice more MPs from the Opposition. By April there were 45 cabinet Ministers and 55 non-cabinet & deputy ministers.
- Fundamental question is what right does a legally questionable government have to pass a 19a that usurps the executive powers given directly by the People to an executive President & pass that on to a Prime Minister who is not elected directly by the People.
It is not surprising that having violated the People’s sovereignty, usurped the People’s constitutionally given rights, broken the trust & faith of the people that the Common Candidate who was supported by UNP, JVP, TNA, SLMC, scores of Civil Society organizations & the International Community to receive 6,217,162 votes in January 2015 lose 1,118,246 voters who felt disgusted with the new government by August 2015. It was because the government was short of a majority again that the continuance of a bogus ‘national government’ was again drummed and a MOU was signed on 21 August 2015 to last 2 years which has now expired.
This national government is not doing anything in the national interest given that trade agreements are being discussed & signed in secret with the contents not being disclosed, very deceptive means are adopted to pass bills manipulating the FR rights for people to object or raise queries against such. Taxes and prices of essential commodities are being raised while MPs are gallivanting all over the world, renovating their homes & toilets, buying themselves benz cars & holding tamashas at the expense of the tax payers. Rubbing salt to a wounded nation has been the manner many are watching with shock as the war heroes who fought to liberate the nation are being hounded on baseless & evidence-less charges, put into prison without bail, kept in prison without filing charges & ridiculed using their henchmen that comprise individuals of the so-called civil society on foreign payroll, unpatriotic media, lawyers loyal to the government and academics & artists who would do anything for money.
20a is another means of again usurping the people’s sovereignty & handing it from a directly elected President to a Prime Minister who is unelected by the People.
With so many violations being committed by the 19th amendment can we the People trust the same people to bring and pass the 20th amendment with far more dangerous clauses & consequences when we know that these changes are all aligned to their final objective to change the constitution leading to the separation of the Island nation?
Shenali D Waduge