Supreme Court dismisses petition to delay Presidential Election

Tuesday, 9 July 2024 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • SC affirms constitution clearly states a five-year presidential term, which the Attorney General emphasised during yesterday’s proceedings
  • Counsel for intervening party MP Wimal Weerawansa argues that the 2019 gazette specifying President’s tenure as five years undermines petitioner’s claims
  • Highlights that majority of voters in 2019 understood and accepted five-year Presidential term as per 19A
  • SJB MP Mujibur Rahman praises court decision, suggesting it countered efforts by the President and Govt. to delay elections

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court dismissed a petition yesterday seeking to postpone the upcoming presidential election. The petitioner, entrepreneur C.D. Lenawa argued that the court needed to determine the President’s term length before the election could proceed.

The five-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, rejected the petition on several grounds. Firstly, they noted the lack of new evidence compared to a similar petition filed in 2019. Additionally, the Attorney General argued that the petitioner’s fundamental rights were not violated as the constitution clearly states a five-year presidential term.

During the proceedings, the Attorney General emphasised before the Supreme Court that the Presidential term is constitutionally defined as five years. The case was heard by a five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, alongside Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Murdhu Fernando, P. Padman Surasena, and S. Thurairajah.

The court also considered objections from intervening parties, including opposition politicians and activists. Several intervening parties, including MP Wimal Weerawansa, the National People’s Power (NPP), activist Wasantha Mudalige, and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), raised objections to the fundamental rights petition.

The Counsel appearing on behalf of Weerawansa raised a preliminary objection during the proceedings, citing that the 2019 gazette announcing the current President’s tenure specified it as five years. They argued before the court that the petitioner failed to indicate any expectation of a six-year Presidential term when they voted in 2019, nor did they mention voting at all. The representative highlighted that the majority of the country’s citizens, having voted in 2019 under the impression of a five-year presidential term as per the 19th Amendment, further undermined any claim of a fundamental rights violation by the petitioner. They contended that without the petitioner establishing an expectation of a six-year term during their vote, there was no prima facie case for a purported violation of fundamental rights.

Additionally, it was argued that the petitioner was aware of both the 2019 gazette and the 19th Amendment, which they sought to challenge in court, suggesting an inconsistency in their claims. Given these points, the representative proposed that the court not only dismiss the petition but also consider imposing serious consequences against frivolous applications of this nature.

Following the dismissal, SJB MP Mujibur Rahman praised the court’s decision, stating it “answered the questions of the people and defeated the conspiracy by the President and the Government to delay elections,”

The petition had sought an interim order preventing the Elections Commission from holding the 2024 election until the court interpreted the President’s term. Lenawa also requested the court mandate a future election based on a six-year term.