Court unseats controversial opposition MP

[TamilNet, Friday, 31 March 2000, 13:48 GMT]
Sri Lanka's Court of Appeal held today that controversial opposition Member of Parliament Dr.Rajitha Senaratne has no right to hold office as Member of Parliament, to sit or to vote in Parliament in the case filed by Deputy Minister for Justice Dilan Perera charging that the opposition politician was engaged in business with a government institution in contravention of the law at the time he was sworn as an MP.

A member of Parliament cannot be engaged in business with state concerns after or at the time of taking oaths as a member of Parliament under Sri Lankan law.

Article 91 (1) of Sri Lanka's present constitution states that "no person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of Parliament or to sit and vote in Parliament" and section (1) (e) of that Article says "if he has any such interest in any such contract made by or on behalf of the state or a public corporation as Parliament shall by law prescribe."

The Court of Appeal, however, noted that the law specifically relevant in considering such disqualification is Article 13 (c) of the Solbury constitution that was in effect from 1948 to 1972 (Sri Lanka's present constitution was introduced in 1978)

Dr. Rajitha Senaratna was closely associated with President Chandrika Kumaratunga when she left the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which her father found with her film star husband Vijaya Kumaratunga to form the Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya (SLMP) in 1984. The SLMP was largely oriented to the left.

The outspoken politician fell out with Chandrika Kumaratunga in the early nineties and became virulently critical of her since then. He joined the United National party later and was nominated as a MP on its national list. The ruling party has often accused him of casting undue aspersions on the Sri Lankan President.

The Appeal Court also held that it was manifestly clear that the first respondent Rajitha Senaratne had entered into a contract with a Government Department or a government institution during his tenure of office as MP and that therefore he has disqualified himself to be an M.P.

The Order stated that it was clear that section 13 (C) of the Solbury constitution should be considered as the law applicable as at present when considering the disqualification referred to in Article 91(e) of the present constitution.

The order directed the Secretary General of Parliament to take necessary and consequential steps in terms of the law.

The Bench comprised Justice Hector Yapa and Justice Asoka de Silva.

Badulla District PA MP and Junior Minister of Justice Dilan Perera was the petitioner in the case.

MP Rajitha Senaratne UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale and the Secretary General of Parliament were cited as respondents.


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