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Opinion of President: must not be opinion of the wild ass

The President had every opportunity to test this out via provisions in the Constitution. But he did not take recourse to such reasonable steps






by Tassie Seneviratne

( November 4, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) On October 26, 2018, in a surprise move, President Maithripala Sirisena sacked incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mr.Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP, as Prime Minister.

This sudden move has caused turmoil in the country and created a Constitutional crisis.

The President has based his action purportedly under Article 42 (4) of the Constitution which reads: "If in his opinion any other MP is most likely to command the majority of Parliament." (emphasis is mine)

The word opinion in legal terms is defined as: formal statement of reasons for judgment.

Reasons, is the operative word here. Although action under this Article appears to be a new phenomenon, not thrashed out in the Supreme Court, the word reason/reasonable, is well established in our laws.

The test as to whether an action is reasonable or not is: Whether, given the same facts, any person with average intelligence will come to the same conclusion. So, it is not just the opinion of the wild ass that matters, but the opinion of a person with average intelligence.

In the context of the fact that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently defeated a ‘No Confidence’ motion against him in Parliament with a large majority, should have been a factor to take into consideration when judging who is likely to command a majority in Parliament.

Moreover, the President had every opportunity to test this out via provisions in the Constitution. But he did not take recourse to such reasonable steps.

I am not challenging the other reasons the President has enumerated to tell the people that Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is not suitable to be Prime Minister. What matters here is the Article under which he is purported to have acted. It is clear that in addition to removing the Prime Minister unconstitutionally, the President has taken mean opportunity to sling mud at him with matters extraneous to Article 42 (4) of the Constitution under which he is purported to have acted

The action of the President, if not led by the opinion of the wild ass, smacks of intrigue.

(The writer is a Retd. Senior Superintendent of Police;Human Rights activist.)

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