Dissolution of Sri Lankan Parliament ‘invalid,’ Supreme Court rules

Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe celebrate outside the Supreme Court premises. (Reuters)
Updated 14 December 2018
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Dissolution of Sri Lankan Parliament ‘invalid,’ Supreme Court rules

  • Ranil Wickremesinghe, said in a tweet: “We trust that the president will promptly respect the judgment of the courts”

COLOMBO: The Supreme Court in Colombo on Thursday ruled that the dissolution of Sri Lanka’s Parliament by President Maithripala Sirisena was invalid and described it as unconstitutional.
The verdict also declared that the notice of dissolution announced in the government gazette was null and void and that the Parliament could not be dissolved until four and half years from the last general elections.
On Nov. 9, Sirisena dissolved the Parliament citing his own reasons for his actions. The president appointed the former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, replacing the incumbent premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The functions of the state were paralyzed when the Court of Appeal ruled this week that Rajapaksa and his team of ministers could not execute their official work until it issued a final verdict.
Thursday’s unanimous verdict was delivered in a packed courtroom by the seven-judge panel. Security was beefed up around the Supreme Court ahead of the verdict.
The petitioners argued the legality of the provisions of Articles 33, 62, and 70 of the constitution, which were subject to conflicting interpretations on the question of whether or not the president has a unilateral power to dissolve Parliament. Each of these provisions were amended by the 19th Amendment in 2015, and the changes went to the heart of the current disagreements over the power of dissolution.
Reacting to the verdict, Namal Rajapaksa, the son of Mahinda Rajapaksa and a parliamentarian, said: “We respect the decision of the Supreme Court, despite the fact that we have reservations regarding its interpretation. We will continue to stand alongside those calling for a parliamentary election, without which there is no real justice for the people.”
President of the National Unity Alliance Azath Salley told Arab News that while respecting the judgment of the court, he still believes that a general election will allow the people to decide the government they need.
Rishad Bathiudeen, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, told Arab News that the verdict is a victory for democracy and a greater victory for minority communities on the island. “We are happy that the court has upheld democratic values and shown the world that Parliament is supreme and democracy is really people’s rule,” he said.
Udaya Gammanpila, a minister in the defunct Cabinet, said: “We respect the decision of the Supreme Court although we are not in agreement with its interpretations.”
Rauff Hakeem, a former minister, said that the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law have eventually triumphed. Hakeem, who is the leader of the Muslim Congress, has a good number of legislators from his party in the Parliament.
Mujibur Rahman, a legislator from the Colombo Central Electorate, said that the court verdict had proved that the country could not be run on the whims of an individual such as Sirisena.
“Sri Lanka is a democratic country which is governed by a constitution and people’s Parliament,” he said. He also insisted that Sirisena should gracefully accept his mistake and resign from his post since he had broken the trust of the 6.2 million voters of Sri Lanka.
Rahman also said that decisions taken in the parliament during the litigation are valid from the retrospective date of when the dissolution was announced. “It’s a great victory for people and it also proved that still judiciary is independent in Sri Lankan,” he said.
Ousted premier and UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said in a tweet: “We trust that the president will promptly respect the judgment of the courts.”


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 24 May 2019
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.