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More constitutional snags hit Sri Lanka’s crisis

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 11 November 2003, 04:14 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s constitutional crisis deepened further on Tuesday as MPs of the ruling United National Front (UNF) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) wrote to the Speaker of Parliament asking him to convene the national legislature before 19 November, the date on which President Kumaratunga’s prorogation of Parliament is due to expire. The UNF, TNA letter invokes Articles 4(c) and 42 of Sri Lanka’s constitution as the legal basis for reconvening Parliament during the prorogation. President Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance (PA) and the JVP slammed the move as illegal.

Article 4(c) of Sri Lanka’s constitution states: “The judicial power of the people shall be exercised by Parliament through courts, tribunals and institutions created and established or recognized by the constitution or created and established by law."

Article 42 states: “The President shall be responsible to Parliament for the due exercise, performance and discharge of her powers, duties and functions under the constitution."

Constitutional expert at the Faculty of Law in the University of Colombo told TamilNet that it can be argued that the UNF, TNA move is legal. “Reading Article 4(c) with 42 would establish that the legislative proceedings of Parliament shall prevail over the executive (President) and judicial (Supreme Court) authorities," he explained.

“If the President says that the reconvening of Parliament during the prorogation is illegal then she has to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court before taking any action on the matter. But the UNF and TNA have sought to circumvent the problem by invoking Article 4(c), which states that judicial power, is first and foremost exercised by Parliament. Hence the question would be whether Supreme Court can nullify the reconvening of the Parliament by the Speaker as unconstitutional. On the basis of Article 4(c) of the constitution the UNF and TNA can say that the Supreme Court has no authority to declare the exercise of Parliament’s judicial authority by the reconvening is illegal," the constitutional expert said.

“Since Article 42 clearly states that the President is answerable to Parliament for all her actions, it is perfectly valid for the legislature to say that it is reconvening during the prorogation to question the act of prorogation itself," he added.

The following is the full text of the letter of the letter signed by MPs of the constituent parties of the UNF (UNP, SLMC, CWC, UPF, DWC) and the TNA:

"Hon. Speaker,
In as much as Parliament exercises both legislative and judicial functions and,

"In as much as all authorities are unanimously agreed that a prorogation does not interrupt the sittings of Parliament vis a vis the exercise of Parliamentís judicial authority as enshrined in Article 4 c of the constitution and,

"In as much as it is open to question whether the President has in terms of Article 42 of the constitution duly exercised her powers in proroguing Parliament and,

"In as much as the action of the President has disrupted and endangered the peace process and,

"In as much as the President has prevented the due presentation of the budget 2004 as scheduled and,

"In as much as the President has thereby hindered the economic progress of the country and,

"In as much as it has become necessary for Parliament to sit and urgently deliberate upon matters related to its Rights and Privileges and certain other matters in the exercise of its Judicial function,

"WE, the undersigned members of Parliament who by our numbers constitute an absolute majority in the House do hereby request you to convene Parliament on such date being a date earlier than the Nineteenth of November, 2003."

 

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