The enactment of the historic 19th Amendment continues to have profound relevance on the options open to President Maithripala Sirisena as crisis deepens in the ruling coalition, with legal experts warning that a 2003 style take-over of ministries by the President or the unilateral sacking of the Prime Minister feared by many political observers is virtually impossible under the provisions of the Act.
The incumbent President, who is subject to the provisions of the 19A, cannot force the removal of a sitting Prime Minister or the Cabinet of Ministers without triggering a major constitutional crisis, since the historic legislation has slashed presidential powers in this respect, legal experts told the Daily FT.
Since the passage of the 19th Amendment, the President no longer has the power to remove the Prime Minister at his discretion, said attorney at law and researcher at the Center for Policy Alternatives, Luwie Niranjan.
Under Article 46 (2) and 48 as amended by the 19th Amendment, the Cabinet of Ministers can only be dismissed if the Prime Minister ceases to hold office by death, resignation or otherwise, if Parliament rejects a statement of government policy or the Budget or if Parliament passes a vote of no confidence in the Government, Niranjan told Daily FT.
“The Prime Minister can only be dismissed if the premier resigns, the Cabinet of Ministers is dismissed or the PM ceases to be a Member of Parliament,” he explained further.
The President’s powers to dismiss individual Cabinet ministers is also restricted by the 19A, Niranjan said. “Under Article 46 (3) (a) the President is explicitly required to act on the advice of the Prime Minister on the removal of Cabinet ministers,” he added.
«Where the Constitution requires the President to act on the advice of the Prime Minister, the President cannot act without obtaining advice or act disregarding the advice given to him,» Niranjan told the Daily FT.