December 26, 2018, 11:47 pm 


The Tamil National Alliance(TNA) Spokesperson M.A.Sumanthiran MP, says that if Mahinda Rajapaksa is to be appointed the Opposition Leader, the main issue that needs to be determined, is whether the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is a party in the Opposition.

In a letter sent to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya with a copy to President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday, Sumanthiran sets out a total of seven reasons, as to why Rajapaksa canno’t be the Opposition Leader.

Leader of the TNA R.Sampanthan maintains that he continues to hold the position of Opposition Leader.

Sumanthiran in his communication to the Speaker states : I write with reference to the Post of Leader of the Opposition and thank you for affording me the opportunity to make representations in writing.

1. There is no dispute that the leader of the political party in Opposition with the most number of seats in Parliament ought to be recognized as the Leader of the Opposition. However the question that now confronts us, is whether the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is a party in Opposition.

2. According to established parliamentary tradition a party in Opposition, is one that does not participate in the government. The UPFA cannot be considered as a party in the Opposition, since the Leader of the UPFA President Maithripala Sirisena, is the Head of Government and the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers. In addition he also holds the portfolios of Defence, Mahaweli Development and Environment. Presently the President holds the Ministries of Law and Order and Media also. In this context where the Chairman of the UPFA is not only the Head of Government, but also a minister in the Cabinet with at least five ministries under him, the UPFA cannot be considered to be a party in the Opposition.

3. Three members of the UPFA have crossed over to government ranks. Previously another three members did the same. The Cabinet of Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers are yet to be appointed and I have information that at least two of the above six MPs have been named in the lists of Cabinet Ministers nominated by the Prime Minister. It is probable that more UPFA MPs will be accommodated as State Ministers and Deputy Ministers. There can also be more cross-overs of UPFA MPs to the government in the coming days.

4. In the totality of the circumstances stated above, it is submitted that UPFA can in no way be described as a party in Opposition and consequently no member of the UPFA, in such capacity, can be appointed as the Leader of the Opposition.

5. The precedents cited : Peoples Alliance government during President Wijetunga’s tenure, UNP government during President Kumaratunga’s tenure. In both instances the President’s did not function as a Minister in the Cabinet, except President Kumaratunga who retained the functions of the Minister of Defence, after an opinion given by the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Sarath Silva.

6. In any event Mahinda Rajapaksa and several other MPs cease to be members of Parliament by operation of Article 99 (13) (a) of the Constitution. It is public knowledge that they resigned from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and obtained membership of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). In terms of the Constitution of the SLFP and UPFA, a person would automatically cease to be a member of the UPFA, when he or she ceases to be a member of the SLFP. The provision enabling a member to invoke the jurisdictions of the Supreme Court is only in the event of an expulsion, which is not the case here. Thus without the requirement of any further actions (such as, communication from the party General Secretary) by operation of law, the said members of the UPFA have vacated their seats in parliament.

7. Since there may be the necessity of establishing certain factual positions in relation to the loss of membership of a political party, a Select Committee of Parliament can be appointed for the said purpose and a Motion for same has already been presented. The composition of Parliament is a very serious and fundamental matter. Therefore this question needs to be resolved early and until such time Mahinda Rajapaksa or any other MP is found to have vacated his seat in Parliament, should not be recognized as the Leader of the Opposition. For all of the above reasons, I request you not to recognize Mahinda Rajapaksa as Leader of the Opposition. (ZJ)