Mahinda Rajapaksa files appeal in Supreme Court

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa filed a petition in the country’s Supreme Court against an order by the Court of Appeal that restrained him and his Cabinet from acting in their official capacities. The court of appeal said 'irreparable damage' could be done to Sri Lanka if Rajapaksa was allowed to remain as head of government.

Background

On Oct 26th, President Maithripala Sirisena ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa, a two-time former President to take his place. Sirisena then dissolved Parliament to prevent a vote, then lifted the suspension, but dissolved it again and called for snap elections. This move is temporarily halted by the country's Supreme Court. Rajapaksa’s government subsequently lost two trust motions in Parliament. The Supreme Court is set to begin a hearing petition against Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament.

Analysis

Sri Lanka's prime minister is appealing a court decision that temporarily bars him and his cabinet from carrying out official duties, amid a constitutional crisis that has left the island nation without effective leadership. 

The ruling by Sri Lanka's Court of Appeals came after Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa refused to step down. Sirisena's decisions have prompted legal challenges and the Appeal Court began hearing a petition by 122 legislators challenging Rajapaksa's authority to hold office after he lost two no-confidence votes last month.

Rajapaksa said he will take his appeal to the Supreme Court and seek an order halting the decision. "We do not agree with the decision given by the Appeals Court as Constitutional matters are finally decided by the Supreme Court," Rajapaksa said. The plea, filed by advocates on Rajapaksa’s behalf, claims that the order of the Court of Appeal is unconstitutional, and that the court has no authority to issue such directives.

Judge Arjuna Obeyesekere said in his ruling that if Rajapaksa and his cabinet continued to hold office, it would cause "irreparable" damage. "Such damage would also have far reaching consequences to the whole country," Obeyesekere said. Even though the decision would leave the nation without a functioning government, "allowing a set of persons who are not entitled in law to function as the prime minister or the cabinet of ministers or any other minister of government," would do far greater harm, he added.

The ruling restrains Rajapaksa and his 48 ministers from holding office until the court has heard a petition by 122 lawmakers that challenges his claim to power. Rajapaksa and the cabinet members have until December 12 to prove to the court that they have authority to govern.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the decision by the Court of Appeal and the no confidence votes does not act in favour of the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe from the office.