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

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.”


Hong Kong leader visits mosque struck by blue water-cannon dye

Updated 3 min 10 sec ago

Hong Kong leader visits mosque struck by blue water-cannon dye

  • The entrance to the Kowloon Mosque was sprayed by a water cannon truck on Sunday, causing anger among both local Muslims and protester
  • The mosque is a center of Hong Kong’s 300,000-strong Muslim community

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader and the city’s police chief visited a mosque on Monday that was struck with blue dye from a water cannon during the latest bout of violent protests.
The entrance to the Kowloon Mosque, the international hub’s largest, was sprayed by a water cannon truck on Sunday, causing anger among both local Muslims and protesters.
Police use the dye — often mixed with an irritant — as a way to identify protesters but it has frequently left streets and buildings daubed in a garish blue.
Video footage shot Sunday showed the truck pulling up outside the building during confrontations with protesters, pausing and then spraying around half a dozen journalists and bystanders who were gathered on the street outside.
The group, who did not appear to be protesters, was struck twice, with much of the bright blue jet painting the mosque’s entrance and steps.
Police released a statement on Sunday saying the mosque was hit by mistake but did not apologize.
On Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam and police chief Stephen Lo paid a brief visit to the mosque, surrounded by a phalanx of security guards.
They emerged some 20 minutes later without speaking to the media.
Mosque representatives told reporters that the two had apologized for the water cannon incident and that the apology had been accepted.
The representatives also thanked worshippers and Hong Kongers who flocked to clean the mosque soon after the incident.
The original Kowloon Mosque was built in the late nineteenth century to cater for Muslim soldiers from British-ruled India.
It was rebuilt in the early 1980s and remains a center of Hong Kong’s 300,000-strong Muslim community.
Lam’s office and the police did not respond to requests for comment on the visit.
A police source told AFP the commissioner did apologize and further details would be released later in the day.
Hong Kong was convulsed by another day of violence on Sunday as the city nears five months of seething pro-democracy protests.
Tens of thousands joined an unauthorized but peaceful afternoon rally which quickly descended into chaos as small groups of hardcore protesters threw petrol bombs and rocks at a police station, mainland China businesses and multiple subway station entrances.
Police responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets in clashes that lasted well into the night.