Sri Lanka: Independent Commissions and the Legitimacy of the PM and Cabinet

Resolving this crisis through Parliament or the judiciary is therefore urgent.

Statement from Prof. S. R. H. Hoole, Member, Election Commission

( November 1, 2018, Jaffna, Sri Lanka Guardian) These are difficult times for independent Commissions. Both Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse are claiming to be legitimate Prime Ministers with their own separate cabinets. President Maithripala Sirisena claims to have dismissed the former using his constitutional powers, while Mr. Wickremesinghe says the President has no such powers and that he cannot be dismissed without a no-confidence motion or defeating his budget.

In this confusion it is regrettable that many news media, both print and electronic, are addressing various persons as Minister of this or that. That is taking sides.

Until Parliament meets and we know with legal backing which person claiming to be PM commands a majority, or the courts affirm who the legitimate PM is, our own personal opinions may not be relevant to the nation.

While the President's position as President is unquestioned, it is unclear who the real ministers, including the PM are.

I believe that independent commissions, if we are truly independent, should have no dealings with any person purporting to be a Minister or those claiming to represent them until Parliament or the Supreme Court resolves this. Till then we must not meet or deal with them.

Resolving this crisis through Parliament or the judiciary is therefore urgent. I feel sadder and worry for government servants who like us commission members, cannot hide behind the independence conferred on the Commissions by the nineteenth amendment, if summoned or ordered by "ministers."

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