Asks speaker to immediately summon Party Leaders meeting
AG cannot interpret constitution after EC gazettes new MP s names
Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe told the Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara yesterday that it was the Secretary General of Parliament who had informed the Elections Commissioner of two vacancies having occured in parliament as a result of Ministers Johnston Fernando and Indika Bandaraike losing their seats.Therefore it was now not possible for the Secretary General of Parliament or the Elections Commissioner to change their positions.
Wickremesinghe, in a communication to Lokubandara, said that the Secretary-General of Parliament had informed the Commissioner of Elections of the vacancies having occured in terms of Section 64(1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act.
It was thereafter that the Commissioner of Elections acting in terms of Section 64(2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, gazette the names of UNP ers M M M Mustafa, D. M. Bandaranayke and Anura Gopallawa as being duly elected to fill the vacancies.
The full text of the letter is as follows `I write further to my letter of 26th March, 2010 regarding the above matter which letter was sent after discussion with my colleagues in the Opposition.
At the outset I wish to place on record that I have yet to receive a reply to my letter.Be that as it may I wish to place the following matters before your.
Initially it was the Secretary-General of Parliament who informed the Commissioner of Elections in terms of Section 64(1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act of the vacancies having occurred.
It was thereafter that the Commissioner of Elections acting in terms of Section 64(2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act gazette the names of Messrs M M M Mustafa, D. M. Bandaranayke and Anura Gopallawa as being duly elected to fill these vacancies.
It is now not possible for either the Secretary-General of Parliament or the Commissioner of Elections to change this position.
The practice in the House of Commons has been to take steps to fill any vacancies immediately.I give below a quotation from Erskine May (22 Ed. Pg. 32)`When vacancies occur the law provides for the issue of writs in order that a representative may be chosen without loss of time by the place which is deprived of its Member`
As far back as 1869, the then Speaker inquiring into a delay informing the House about the result of the by-elections to fill a vacancy decided that it was a result of delay by the Royal Mail and the House did not proceed to take action against anyone.The same practice applies in Sri Lanka.
In terms of Article 4(a) of the Constitution, the legislative power of the people is exercised by Parliament consisting of elected representatives which according to Article 62 shall consist of 225 Members.
The non filling of any vacancy would then deprive the people of Kurunegala and Muslims of the East, one of their Fundamental Rights, that is to participate in the enactment of legislation.If these new members are not sworn in on 6th April 2010, they will lose the opportunity of sitting in Parliament. There is nothing in the Constitution that permits denying a Member whose name has been gazette from taking the oath. Doing so will in the first instance be a countermanding of the decisions of the Secretary-General of Parliament and the Commissioner of Elections who had acted in terms of the law,namely Section 64 of the Parliamentary Elections Act. It also amounts to violation of the Constitution.
Not swearing in the new members is tantamount to permitting Messrs Johnston Fernando and Indika Bandaranayake to enjoy the benefits of being Minister and Members of Parliament. If they participate in the proceedings of the House, they would be `strangers` and thus would be in breach of the privileges of the House.The Attorney-General too has no place in this matter after the publication of the gazette. It is not his function to interpret the Constitution. He must apply to the Supreme Court.
Once Parliament has been summoned `the regulation of its business` is governed by the Standing Orders made in terms of Article 74 of the Constitution.In any event I wish to point out that once Parliament is summoned in terms of 155 of the Constitution its business must be determined according to the Standing Orders.In the first instance it should be decided by the Parliamentary Business Committee (Party Leaders) and Standing Order 19 which lays down the Order of the Business.
As you are aware the first item in the Order of Business is the Oath or Affirmation by new Members.Public Business comes very much after that, it is fallacious to argue that no business other than discussing the approval of the proclamation declaring an emergency can be discussed on this day.
Parliament met on an earlier occasion is similar circumstances on the 9th of March, 2010, and in addition to discussing the Emergency also discussed.
1. the suspension of Standing Order of 23.
2. suspension of Standing Order 7 (changing hours of sitting)
I therefore call upon you to immediately summon a meeting of Parliamentary Business Committee (Party Leaders) to discuss this matter.