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.”


Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

Updated 20 July 2019
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Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

  • Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests
  • Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of people rallied in support of Hong Kong’s police and pro-Beijing leadership on Saturday, a vivid illustration of the polarization coursing through the city after weeks of anti-government demonstrations.
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests — as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police — sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and other countries.
The bill has since been suspended, but that has done little to quell public anger which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous financial hub.
Saturday’s rally was a moment for the establishment to muster their own supporters.
A predominantly older crowd was joined by families and younger residents, waving Chinese flags and holding banners supporting the police.
“Friends who used violence say they love Hong Kong too, but we absolutely cannot approve of their way of expressing themselves,” said Sunny Wong, 42, who works in insurance.
A 60-year-old woman surnamed Leung said protesters who stormed and vandalized the legislature earlier this month must be held responsible for their acts.
“I really dislike people using violence on others... it was so extreme,” Leung said.
Police estimated a turnout of 103,000 people at the peak of the rally, while local media cited organizers as saying 316,000 attended.
Hong Kong’s police are in the midst of a major reputational crisis.
With no political solution on the table from the city’s pro-Beijing leaders, the police have become enmeshed in a seemingly intractable cycle of clashes with protesters who have continued to hit the streets in huge numbers for six weeks.
Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over.
Police insist their crowd control responses have been proportionate and point to injured officers as proof that a hardcore minority of protesters mean them harm.
Some of the most violent clashes occurred last Sunday when riot police battled protesters hurling projectiles inside a luxury mall. Some 28 people were injured, including 10 officers.
There is growing frustration among the police force’s exhausted rank and file that neither the city’s leaders, nor Beijing, seem to have any idea how to end the crisis.
Chinese state media and powerful pro-Beijing groups threw their weight behind the pro-police rally.
Saturday’s edition of Hong Kong’s staunchly pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran a front page encouraging readers to join with the headline: “Kick away the violence.”
It featured a drawing of a large foot kicking over a pro-democracy demonstrator.
Many of those at the rally held aloft large slogans printed on the spread of Wen Wei Po, another stridently pro-Beijing newspaper in the city.
A rally last month by police supporters saw ugly scenes, with many participants hurling insults and scuffling with younger democracy protesters as well as media covering the gathering.
While the pro-government protests have mustered decent crowds, they have paled in comparison with the huge pro-democracy marches that have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands of people.
Anti-government protesters are planning another large march Sunday afternoon and say they have no plan to back down until key demands are met.
Tensions were also raised after police on Saturday said they had discovered a homemade laboratory making high-powered explosives. A 27-year-old man was arrested and pro-independence materials were also discovered.
Under the 1997 handover deal with Britain, China promised to allow Hong Kong to keep key liberties such as its independent judiciary and freedom of speech.
But many say that 50-year deal is already being curtailed, citing the disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians and the jailing of pro-democracy protest leaders.
Authorities have also resisted calls for the city’s leader to be directly elected by the people.