Sri Lanka court stays dissolution, snap elections

Sri Lanka court stays dissolution, snap elections

News:

  1. Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court (SC) stayed President Maithripala Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament and restrained the Election Commission from preparing for snap elections.

Important Facts:

  1. Background:
  • President Sirisena’s on November 9 decided to dissolve Parliament after his party publicly admitted to lacking a majority in the House, heightening a political crisis that began on October 26.
  • Moreover, just five days before Parliament was due to reconvene, Mr. Sirisena dissolved it and called snap elections for January 5.
  • Sirisena also fired his PM Wickremesinghe, installed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place, and swiftly swore in a “new cabinet”, in the face of strong local and international criticism.
  • Dissolution of Parliament prevented a vote on the House to test the rival camps’ claims to the majority.
  • Almost all political parties, except those aligned to the Sirisena-Rajapaksa front, petitioned the Supreme Court challenging the “illegal” action.
  • Government response: The Attorney General responded before SC, invoking the President’s plenary powers in the Constitution to argue that his actions were constitutional.
  1. Immediate causes of the crises:
  • Tensions had been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister.
  • Sirisena was critical of investigations into military personnel accused of human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s long civil war against a Tamil separatist group, which ended in 2009.
  1. According to the constitution, Parliament can’t be dissolved until 4 1/2 years after its election. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.
  2. Moreover, the Speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament said that he recognizes Wickremesinghe as the country’s lawful prime minister until another candidate can prove a majority in parliament.
  3. He has also accused President Sirisena of “usurping” the rights of legislators and asked public servants not to carry out his “illegal orders”.
  4. Significance:
  • This political crisis is threatening democracy and the rule of law in that South Asian country.
  1. India’s Case:
  • India would be “doubly cautious” in dealing with any political situation in Sri Lanka given its own history of military intervention in Sri Lanka i.e. sending Indian peacekeeping troops but itself sucked into the civil war, with its soldiers getting killed.
  • In the present crisis, there was no question of Sri Lankan Tamils getting affected so India’s resorting to a hands-off approach would be the most prudent.
  • Moreover, meddling in the crisis would give rise to anti-India sentiments which would, in turn, give China an advantage to increase its footprint in and around India’s periphery with loans and infrastructure projects.
  1. Way Forward:
  • Following the SC ruling to stay the Parliament dissolution, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had convened Parliament.
  • However it remains unclear if the House will take up a floor test but its reconvening, nearly three weeks after it was prorogued, and subsequently dissolved comes as good news to parties that deemed the President’s sudden actions unconstitutional.
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