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Hail the Supreme Court

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Sri Lankans can be justly proud of their democratic institutions after the decision given on Thursday. The Supreme Court has reinforced the people’s faith in the independence of the Judiciary, by deciding President Maithripala Sirisena does not have the authority to dissolve Parliament before four and a half years of its term is over. It is a win for the entire country. 

The Supreme Court has completed a journey that was started by democracy-loving citizens nearly seven weeks ago, when President Sirisena sacked sitting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and installed MP Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. The subsequent proroguing of Parliament, the 13 petitions filed before the Supreme Court, the issuing of the Stay Order, and multiple votes in Parliament proving Rajapaksa does not have majority, have been discussed at length in this publication and elsewhere. This landmark decision will also go down in history as a proud moment for one of Asia’s oldest democracies. 

History will remember those who held the line during this time, and continue to do so. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya will no doubt feature prominently in this line up, as will key Parliamentarians within the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). As once pointed out by JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, his party and the TNA have both suffered when democracy was weakened in Sri Lanka, and could not stand by when it was attacked again. 

Yet perhaps the biggest accolades should be reserved for the public. People who attended the protests, some for the first time in their lives, who refused to accept the version laid out for them, but went the extra mile to understand what was really happening and decided to stand by a principle. Being principled is a difficult decision to make, because it is often not attached to tangible benefits. Adherence and respect for the law can often be devalued by twisted words that attempt to subvert what is right. 

Nonetheless, the battle goes on. President Sirisena’s next step is now awaited by all Sri Lankans. Economic and other imperatives mean that further stalling by him is unacceptable. Sirisena will be hoping the Supreme Court will provide him with some relief, as it begins hearings today on the Petition filed against the Interim Order given by the Court of Appeal. It is now imperative for the United National Party (UNP) and other pro-democratic forces to step up and demand the Executive respects the Supreme Court decision. 

The UNP now owe a double debt of gratitude to the people. First, for voting to remove Rajapaksa in 2015, and a second time for standing by the UNP after 26 October, even though they failed to implement many of their key election pledges over the last three years. The failure of the UNP to push forward with key corruption investigations, promote reconciliation measures, and push forward critical reforms needed to restructure the economy, cannot be overlooked. The democracy that has been upheld by the Supreme Court gives the UNP a platform they have not earned, and they now have a profound responsibility to move past business as usual and work to fulfil the people’s expectations. For now, all eyes will remain on the Supreme Court to await their decision on the Interim Order.  


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