Two civil society activists today an appeal with the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the decision last month by the Court of Appeal to dismiss their writ application that sought to quash the dual citizenship certificate of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Prof. Chandragupta Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda, co-conveners of the Purawesi Balaya civil society group, had filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal challenging the authenticity of the dual citizenship certificate granted to the former Defence Secretary on 21 November 2005 by his brother, newly sworn-in President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
On Friday, 4 October, after several days of hearings, a three-judge bench of the Court of Appeal dismissed the application. The bench comprised Court of Appeal President Yasantha Kodagoda and Justices Mahinda Samayawardhena and Arjuna Obeysekere.
A detailed written order was issued by the court a week later, in which the bench stated that President Rajapaksa was the “repository” of executive power under the Constitution and was able to lawfully exercise the powers vested in a minister by law, even before the appointment of a Cabinet of Ministers. The judges also ruled that the two activists had no standing to file the application, should have filed it several years ago, and had made the application for a collateral political purpose.
In the appeal filed yesterday, the petitioners have asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the Court of Appeal erred in law by stating that the Constitution allowed a newly elected President to have exercised powers conferred on a minister by any written law before a Cabinet of Ministers is appointed.
The appeal further asks the court to revise the Court of Appeal (CA) finding that the President alone was “the repository of the executive power of the people,” and to reconsider the way in which the Court of Appeal interpreted the Constitution in reaching their verdict.
The petitioners also ask the Supreme Court to reconsider the CA findings that they were guilty of unexplained delay, that they had filed the application for a collateral purpose and not as genuine public interest litigation, and that they had not disclosed a sufficient interest to have and maintain the application.
Like the original application, the appeal seeks to have the dual citizenship certificate of Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a nullity, and to nullify Rajapaksa’s ability to act as or represent himself as a citizen of Sri Lanka. During the hearings at the Court of Appeal, Presidents Counsel Romesh de Silva, appearing for Rajapaksa, told the court that if such relief were to be granted, Rajapaksa would become a stateless person.