Ranil, Sajith and five other Opposition parties urge Gotabaya to recall Parliament and resolve growing crisis

Ranil Wickremesinghe

Seven major political parties are urging President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to rescind the dissolution order issued on the last Parliament and reconvene the House so that the country can face the growing threat from the COVID-19 epidemic.

They are pledging their joint unconditional support to the President in Parliament to solve the impending crisis.

In a document released today April 27 the parties point out that the optimism that prevailed in the country until a few weeks ago that the epidemic could be controlled is receding.

“If further spreading of the pandemic is not decisively halted in the coming few weeks, the country will face the risk of the prevailing public health crisis being compounded by crisis situations in the economic, social and political spheres too,” the statement said.

The document signed by Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sajith Premadasa, R Sampanthan, Mano Ganesan, Rauff Hakeem, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Rishad Bathiudeen, points out that although elections have been called for June 20, it is unlikely that conditions would be conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.

President Rajapaksa has repeatedly said that he will not reconvene Parliament as he does not think it is necessary.

But those statements were made when the government felt that they were in control of the situation and the elections could be conducted on June 20 as currently scheduled.

A number of Buddhist prelates supporting Rajapaksa also met him and urged him not to reconvene parliament.

However independent Constitutional experts have warned of an unprecedented constitutional crisis that could result.

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has also urged the reconvening of parliament and warned that Sri Lanka could risk “de-legitimization” if the crisis is not resolved.

The parties state that they “do not think the people of our country should be exposed to the unnecessary danger of a public health hazard by holding an election anytime soon.”

They point out that a free and fair election would entail a proper campaign which would heighten the risk of the virus spreading country wide.

“We are acutely aware of the exponential rise in infections last week,” they noted.

The parties are urging President Rajapaksa to respond positively to this offer of responsible cooperation by us at this critical time, and “revoke the proclamation dated 2nd March 2020 dissolving Parliament so that all of us can jointly fight to eradicate this virus, and also ensure that everything is done lawfully and in compliance with the Constitution.”

They point out that the President can thereafter dissolve Parliament whenever the situation becomes conducive to conduct the Election.

They also say that in the “alternative, His Excellency should at least exercise his powers under Article 70(7) of the Constitution and summon the dissolved Parliament; and His Excellency and indeed the whole country can count on our utmost sincerity and responsible cooperation, which is being offered without any strings and only in the best interests of the country and our people.”

They pointed out that Sri Lanka “like any democracy, is governed by three institutions with distinct and separate powers, viz, the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary. All three of these organs are vital, and must be active for Rule of Law to prevail. Their functioning is more important now than at any other time – when we face an unprecedented challenge.”

“But this crisis is taking place at a time when Parliament has been made inactive. Meanwhile, the President has also refrained from exercising the discretion to summon Parliament under Article 70 (7) of the Constitution. In view of the necessity to repeatedly postpone the Election, there is now a risk that Parliament would remain inactive for much longer.” (Colombo, April 27, 2020)

(Source: EconomyNext – By Arjuna Ranawana)