By Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman Prof. G. L. Peiris will soon move the District Court, seeking a clarification as regards President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s eligibility to contest the 2019 presidential election.
Prof. Peiris revealed his party’s plan, yesterday, at a media briefing at the Nelum Mawatha Office of former President Rajapaksa.
Former External Affairs Minister Peiris said in terms of the Article 125 of the Constitution, the District Court could refer the matter to the Supreme Court for a ruling. According to him, the Supreme Court will have to make its ruling known to the District Court within two months.
Acknowledging that only the Supreme Court could interpret the Constitution, Prof. Peiris said that if necessary he was ready to go before the District Court in his capacity as the SLPP Chairman.
As for Higher Education and Cultural Affairs Minister Dr Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s claim that only the President could consult the Supreme Court, Prof. Peiris said the Joint Opposition was taking a different course of action.
Wijeyadasa Rajapakse on Sunday declared that Rajapaksa could not run for President again in accordance with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution because the latter had been elected by the people twice.
Minister Rajapakse said there was no way former President Rajapaksa could seek an opinion on the issue from the Supreme Court on the issue. “Only President Maithripala Sirisena can consult the Supreme Court,” Minister Rajapaksa said.
Prof. Peiris emphasized that in the absence of specific provision in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in early 2015 with regard to non eligibility of those who had held Office for two terms, the new could not be applied to the past. Therefore, the two-term provision could be applied to those elected after the enactment of the 19th Amendment.
Alleging that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo was scared to face the electorate, Prof. Peiris said that the genuine Opposition was determined to compel the government and the National Election Commission to take tangible measures to hold PC polls this year and early next year followed by presidential and parliamentary polls in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Responding to questions, Prof. Peiris said that the presidency under the 19th Amendment was wholly different from the executive powers enjoyed in accordance with the 1978 Constitution. The SLPP Chairman said that it would be pertinent to mention that the executive presidency established in line with Article 30 of the 1978 Constitution couldn’t be compared with what the country had now in the wake of the Article 3 of the 19 Amendment repealing Article 30.
The former law professor of the Colombo University explained four major differences between the original executive presidency and the one in operation now. According to him, far reaching changes had been introduced in respect of appointment of ministers, number of portfolios President was entitled to hold, dissolution of parliament etc.
A legal expert told The Island yesterday that the 19th Amendment was clear about two-term limit.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the expert pointed out that the Supreme Court had been clear on 19 Amendment in respect of the five year term for the president and denial of dual citizens right to serve as lawmakers. Supreme Court rulings as regards President Maithripala Sirisena and MP Geetha Kumarasinghe were clear, he said. Therefore, the former President’s group could secure a clarification by moving District Court, he said.
However, Prof. Peiris expressed confidence that the Supreme Court would interpret the 19th Amendment in their favour in line with the existing law.
Purawesi Balaya Co Convenor Gamini Viyangoda yesterday told The Island that the former President had conveniently forgotten that he was overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate at 2015 January presidential poll. Viyangoda said that the Rajapaksa Camp had forgotten the circumstances under which the 18th Amendment was brought in to pave the way for the twice president to contest 2015 presidential poll. The civil society activist pointed out that the former President Camp was seeking the Supreme Court interpretation of 19 Amendment against the backdrop of JO’s failure to reach consensus on its presidential candidature.