General Election the only way to bring stability- MR

Published : 9:16 am  December 3, 2018 | No comments so far |  | 

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  • Prez has power under Article 33(2)(c) to dissolve Parliament 
  • Political parties go to court against elections only in Sri Lanka  

 

MB_1-1Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his special statement made to the nation, said the only way to restore stability to a destabilized democracy would be a general election.   

He said according to our Constitution, sovereignty is vested in the people and not in Parliament. Mr. Rajapaksa, in his statement said, after the 19th Amendment, Parliamentary conventions had been preserved in our Constitution through Article 33(2)(c).   


“If we ignore that Article and accept only Article 70(1) as amended by the 19th Amendment, then we will be faced with a situation where there is absolutely no provision in the Constitution to dissolve Parliament in the event the government is defeated at a vote on the budget, the statement of government policy or a motion of no confidence is passed against a government. 

 

  • There are only two countries that require a two thirds majority to dissolve Parliament 


Such a situation is completely contrary to Parliamentary tradition. If even the ceremonial heads of state in countries with parliamentary forms of government can dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections at their discretion when the circumstances so require, how logical is it to say that the President of Sri Lanka who is vested with the executive power of the State on behalf of the sovereign people cannot dissolve Parliament no matter what happens in the country?” he asked.   


 He said, “How can it be said that the President does not have the power to dissolve Parliament when Article 33(2)(c) was specifically introduced to the Constitution by the 19th Amendment? It took only 56 votes in Parliament to pass into law Act No. 5 of 2018 which put in place a legal framework to hand over our war heroes to foreign courts. How then can one argue that you need 150 votes in Parliament to be able to pave the way for the sovereign people to exercise their franchise? I was recently given a copy of a report published by an inter-governmental organisation called the ‘International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’. The member states of this organisation include Germany, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and also India and Japan.   


According to that report, there are only two countries that require a two thirds majority to dissolve Parliament – Kosovo and Lithuania. However, even in those countries the head of state can dissolve parliament if a no confidence motion against the government is adopted or if the statement of government policy is rejected. The only country mentioned therein which has a Parliament that cannot be dissolved under any circumstances until the end of its term, is Norway. However, the situation in Norway is very different to ours. The population of Norway is smaller than that or our Western Province. Furthermore, that country is a constitutional monarchy.   


Even if a government is defeated in Parliament, it has to continue in office until a new government is appointed by the King. When the King in Council presents the annual budget to Parliament, it will be debated but there is no tradition of defeating budgets in that country. Most of the time, Norway has had minority governments that do not have a majority in Parliament. That is the situation at this moment as well. It should be clear that what works in Norway will not work in Sri Lanka.   


The manner in which the French Constitution evolved is also relevant to this discussion. The Constitution that France had before 1940 had made it virtually impossible to dissolve Parliament. This led to chronically unstable governments being formed in France during those years. In 1940, Hitler invaded France. After being liberated from the German occupation, France promulgated a new Constitution in 1946 which relaxed the provisions relating to the dissolution of Parliament and allowed the calling of fresh elections in the event where two no confidence motions are passed against a government within a period of 18 months. 


However, because even that did not suffice to ensure stable governments, the present Constitution of France which was adopted in 1958 has given the President the power to dissolve Parliament at his discretion.   


We must learn from those experiences. Since the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of fresh elections will have implications for the person ordering such actions as well, no head of state will take such a decision lightly. Such a decision will be made only in serious situations. The only way to restore stability to a destablised democracy, will be through a general election. According to our Constitution, sovereignty is vested in the people and not in Parliament. The manner in which the people exercise their sovereignty is through the franchise. I invite all those who respect democracy to give careful thought to these matters.   

 

If we ignore that Article and accept only Article 70(1) as amended by the 19th Amendment, then we will be faced with a situation where there is absolutely no provision in the Constitution to dissolve Parliament in the event the government is defeated at a vote on the budget, the statement of government policy or a motion of no confidence is passed against a government


It is only in Sri Lanka that you will find political parties agitating against the holding of a general election that has already been declared. In the gazette notification dated 09 November 2018 issued by the President in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution and the Parliamentary Elections Act, dates had been fixed to call for nominations from the 19th to the 26th November, to hold the poll on the 5th January 2019, and for the new Parliament to meet for the first time on the 17th January. If things had gone accordingly, stability would soon have been restored to this country.    

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