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Positive decisions


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Sri Lanka’s five-week old Constitutional deadlock took another turn on Monday, after the Court of Appeal decided to issue an interim injunction on the Quo Warranto petition filed against MP Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Cabinet. The interim order would mean MP Rajapaksa and his Cabinet of Ministers will not be entitled to serve in their positions of Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers until a final order is issued by the Court.

The interim relief was granted after Court had considered submissions presented by both parties in the case. While issuing the decision, Court had said that irreversible damage could be caused if unentitled individuals occupy the positions of Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. Accordingly, the petition will be heard before the Court of Appeal on 12 and 13 December. 

The decision came just hours before President Maithripala Sirisena was due to meet with the United National Front (UNF). Speculation has been rife for days that President Sirisena may be considering the withdrawal of the Gazette dissolving Parliament, to create space for the appointment of a new Prime Minister. So far, the UNF has insisted MP Ranil Wickremesinghe should be the Prime Minister, and Parliament should return to the status before 26 October. The latest ruling is likely to strengthen their hand to push for a return of Wickremesinghe. 

The battle for Sri Lanka’s democracy appears to be increasing momentum, with the Supreme Court starting hearings on petitions filed contesting the Gazette dissolving Parliament on Tuesday. On Wednesday, when Parliament meets again, another vote in Parliament is expected, and if MP Rajapaksa and his supporters are unable to show majority, it would further weaken their efforts to push for a General Election. 

The interim injunction by the Court of Appeal has also deepened questions of the legality of decisions made by the Sirisena-Rajapaksa Cabinet. Questions have been raised about the legality of the decisions and whether they are made with adequate consultation. A recent decision by the Finance Ministry to reduce sugar taxes introduced earlier this year ran into criticism over health concerns. 

Locally, as much as 85% of ill-health can be traced back to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and kidney diseases among others, mirroring a developed country. Also, there is indication that poorer people are more likely to be affected by poor diet choices than wealthier members of society. Other tax concessions proposed since 26 October would need a Parliament vote to be implemented, but concerns have been raised about what their impact would be on public revenue.

Reports have also suggested that the Sirisena-Rajapaksa Cabinet may have been attempting to push through large-scale projects, including one for a LNG tender worth $10 billion, without adequate consultations and due process. Such irresponsible behaviour from policy makers at the highest levels undermines public interest, and could have long-term consequences for Sri Lanka, which is already mired in debt. 

Cabinet, regardless of its composition and political hue, should always work for the benefit of people while promoting transparency and accountability. It is not in the country’s interest to take legally questionable decisions to simply push forward a political agenda.          


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