Friday, November 16, 2018 02:08:35 AM

Paradise Lost? Preliminary Notes on a Constitutional Coup

By Asanga Welikala - Fri Oct 26, 10:54 pm

Featured image courtesy Alexander Nikiforov

There were three dramatic announcements on the evening of Friday 26th(a) the announcement of the withdrawal of the UPFA from the government; (b) the swearing-in of Mahinda Rajapaksa before President Maithripala Sirisena as the Prime Minister; and (c) the announcement that the President has informed Ranil Wickremesinghe in writing that he has been removed from the office of Prime Minister under Article 42(4).

Even if the legality of the procedure and the clarity and meaning of the relevant constitutional provisions can be debated, the fact that the event was planned in complete secrecy, with no consultation of Parliament or giving the serving Prime Minister and Cabinet the courtesy of even a short prior intimation before the course of action was made public, that it was suddenly carried out on a Friday evening, and that it has taken the country by total surprise, point to some extremely questionable motives.

Indeed, the whole set of circumstances suggest not the way a change of government ought to occur in a democracy, but the sharp practices associated with a constitutional coup, which is likely to lead to a constitutional crisis. It is a constitutional coup because the serving Prime Minister has not legally ceased to function in office before a new Prime Minister has been appointed. And it will lead to an unprecedented constitutional crisis because there are now two competing Prime Ministers and their parties jostling for power, authority, and legitimacy at the very heart of the state. Until one of these persons – Mahinda Rajapaksa or Ranil Wickremesinghe – can demonstrate that he has the confidence of Parliament through the support of a majority of MPs, and force the President to accept the will of Parliament, the crisis will not be resolved. Only time will tell what long-term damage this does to Sri Lanka’s constitutional fabric….

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