Conflict of interest over functions between President, Opp. Leader – Sampanthan

R Sampanthan

There is a clear and definite conflict of interest between the duties and functions performed by the President and the duties and functions of Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as Opposition Leader, said TNA Leader R.Sampanthan.

Sampanthan, making a lengthy statement in Parliament yesterday, raised questions on the suitability of former President Rajapaksa holding the Opposition Leader’s post, but however said that he accepts the Speaker’s decision as final.

“The Deputy Speaker on your behalf made a statement in Parliament on January 8 on this matter, but there is no reference

whatsoever to the UPFA also being represented in Government and therefore not being entitled to serve as the official opposition. You have thereby failed to refer to the crucial reason stated by you when recognizing me the Leader of the second largest party in opposition as the Leader of the Opposition twice: first in September 2015 secondly in August 2018,” said Sampanthan addressing Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

“Under Article 30 of the Constitution, the President is the Head of State, the Head of the Executive and of the Government. The President is also the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers. The President is also Head of the UPFA and the SLFP. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been proposed to the position of Opposition Leader by the Secretary of the UPFA. They both belong to the UPFA and its constituent party the SLFP,” he noted.

Sampanthan in support of his argument quoted an article by legal luminary Dr. Nihal Jayawickrema, where the latter said “Parliament is entitled to ask the President to explain how he can concurrently serve as Head of the Government and as Head of the Opposition and whether he does not understand that functioning simultaneously in both capacities is a gross violation of the fundamental democratic basis of the Constitution”.

“An effort is being made to make out that similar situations had arisen during the terms of previous Presidents. It needs to be pointed out that this question has never been raised before, and no ruling has been given by any Speaker on this question. Now that the question has been raised the matter needs to be addressed on the basis of the relevant Constitutional provisions, Parliamentary practices and conventions and the relevant facts relating to the conflict of interest between the Offices of the Head of the government and the Head of the opposition,” Sampanthan added.

Sampanthan also quoted Erskine May to convince his point that any political party to be recognized as the official opposition must not be represented in the government.

“I wish to make it perfectly clear that I raise this question not because I or the TNA are hankering after office. We have never sought office. In 1983, 16 Tamil Members of Parliament of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) on principle refused to take an oath and consequently sacrificed their seats in Parliament when we had six years more to serve as members of Parliament. I was the first of the 16 members of Parliament to vacate my seat. We have declined office on other occasions which is a matter of public knowledge. But we do think that the rights of the minority political parties and minority peoples should not be jeopardized by manipulating or subverting either the Constitution or accepted constitutional practices and conventions so as to serve the interests of individuals catering to majoritarianism. I do further think that rights which Constitutionally accrue to minority parties and minority peoples should be protected and preserved,” he concluded.

(Source: Daily News – By Disna Mudalige and Amali Mallawaarachchi)