The government yesterday insisted that Ministers Johnston Fernando and Indika Bandaranaike were still members of parliament, despite the Elections Commissioner replacing them with two UNPers, who had contested the last General General Election from the Kurunegala District.
Fernando and Bandaranaike were deemed to have lost their seats due to continuously absenting themselves from Parliament for more than three months.
Export Development and International Trade Minister G. L. Peiris, addressing yesterday s Cabinet press briefing in Colombo, claimed that Fernando and Bandaranaike could continue as MPs until April 8 in terms of an interpretation given by Attorney General Mohan Peiris.
`The parliament that is summoned to debate the extension of emergency regulations has to be the same parliament that existed prior to its dissolution,` he said. `We do not think the two MPs have lost their seats. Furthermore, in terms of Article 47 (1) of the Constitution, they continue to hold their executive positions until April 8.`
When it was pointed out that the Elections Commissioner had already gazetted the names of UNPers D. M. Bandaranaike and Anura Gopallawa, as the new MPs for the Kurunegala District, Prof. Peiris replied that they would institute legal action to ensure that the Constitution was not violated.
He said that the Attorney General s interpretation had been communicated to the Cabinet of ministers on Wednesday. Johnston Fernanndo had also been present at the meeting.