By Chathuri Dissanayake
The Court of Appeal yesterday issued an interim order restraining Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed to the post of Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena, and his Cabinet of Ministers from functioning in office. The stay order is in force until the final hearing and determination is given.
The order, latest in a series of setbacks for the Government appointed by Sirisena after removing Ranil Wickremesinghe from the post of Prime Minister, which has failed to show majority in Parliament even one month after appointment, bars Rajapaksa from exercising any authority as Prime Minister or Finance Minister, while 48 other appointees to Ministerial posts are also restrained from functioning in any official capacity. The Court also granted notice calling upon respondents to show cause on 12 December why the final relief of Quo Warranto should not be granted.
“The Court has issued the interim order against Mahinda Rajapaksa from functioning in the office of Prime Minister. Now the President has to appoint somebody else immediately,” said TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran PC, speaking to media outside of the Supreme Court complex.
The 122 Parliamentarians who voted for the No Confidence Motion on 14 and 16 November filed the Writ application against Rajapaksa and the Cabinet appointed by President Sirisena.
Delivering the interim order after hearing the representations made by the petitioners and respondents for two days, the Court said that the damage caused by persons who are not legally entitled to hold office “would be irreparable or irremediable.”
The decision was read out to a packed audience in the courtroom, with only a handful of politicians in attendance.
“Such damage would also have far-reaching consequences to the whole country. In such a situation a final order could be rendered nugatory even if Petitioners are successful.”
Noting that the “balance of convenience of the parties to this case is tilted in favour of the case advanced by the 122 Petitioners,” President of the Court of Appeal Justice P. Padman Surasena said that the “damages caused by persons who are usurping the office of Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers would far outweigh the damage caused by restricting lawful Government.”
“The balance of convenience showed that usurpers should be retrained till the proper Government is formed. Who does it is not the problem for court, who has to do it is the President, acting constitutionally he should do it tonight itself, then there won’t be a state of play where there is no Government,” Counsel K. Kanag-Isvaran PC, appearing for the Petitioners, told Daily FT. “So now it’s in the hands of the President, I am sure he will appoint someone new tonight,” a confident Kanag-Isvaran said.
During the hearing, Counsel appearing for Rajapaksa and the other respondents pleaded that if an interim order is issued, then there would be anarchy in the country with no Prime Minister and no Government.
Only three members from the Rajapaksa camp were present for the hearing, with both Chandima Weerakkody and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa making a hasty exist after the decision was read out.
Udaya Gammanpila, speaking to media on the steps of the Supreme Court, said that the decision given by the Court was unexpected, stating the Court was provided with “bogus documents”.