Geetha buys time from Sri Lanka’s split Supreme Court
By Our Political Correspondent
May 15, 2017 21:08 PM GMT+0530 | 1 Comment(s)
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court, which rushed last week to take up the case of disputed legislator Geetha Kumarasinghe, granted her more time on Monday to remain in parliament and fixed the next hearing more than four months away on September 25.
The case is not an election petition, but even members of parliament who are expelled from their party and removed from parliament have a maximum of one month to go to the supreme court and challenge such removal, and the court has just two months to make its final decision.
Although this is not such an appeal, it relates to a person determined as unsuitable to be in parliament now being allowed by the highest court an extraordinary amount of time to sit in parliament and exercise authority as a law maker.
The three-judge bench, in a majority decision, extended a stay of her removal from parliament in line with a Court of Appeal decision that she was an usurper and had no right to remain in parliament by virtue of violating provisions of the constitution.
It was not clear who the judges were who granted Kumarasinghe such a long period to remain in office and put off the next hearing for September 25. However, two of the judges are those appointed by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. One of them, Upali Abeyrathne, was given the supreme court appointment by Rajapaksa even after he had filed nominations to contest the January 2015 elections.
Another judge, Eva Wanasundera, was also given the job by Rajapaksa and is one of the judges who controversially granted an order preventing the arrest of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in May 2015.
The latest court decision raised eyebrows within legal circles and underscored allegations from rights organisations that the Sri Lankan judiciary was corrupt except for a few judges.
The extraordinary decision on Monday came despite the state declaring that Kumarasinghe was still a Swiss national holding dual Sri Lankan citizenship and was clearly in violation of the 19th amendment to the constitution.
The Supreme Court granted the first stay order suspending the Court of Appeal decision even without calling the parties to the case and drawing strong protests from the attorney who appeared for the petitioners who filed the original case against Kumarasinghe.
The Court of Appeal had ruled that she was not qualified to contest the August 2015 parliamentary elections because at the time she held dual citizenship, violating provisions of the 19th amendment to the constitution. The court said she did not prove that she had renounced her Swiss nationality.
The court also ordered the attorney general to initiate action to recover all costs the state had incurred during the period Kumarasinghe held a seat in parliament. Parliamentarians get duty-free cars, subsidised meals, free massages and bodyguards. (COLOMBO, May 15, 2017)