Council for Liberal Democracy blasts President’s remarks undermining Supreme Court and fundamental rights

Monday, 7 August 2023 00:28 –      – 46

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe

The Council for Liberal Democracy (CLD) yesterday expressed its profound alarm at the recent report of a speech made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe at a meeting of the Coconut Growers Association.

The headline of the report was “The Government will not heed orders or advice from any other party except Parliament with regard to debt optimisation measures – President Ranil Wickremesinghe.”

CLD said this refers to the Supreme Court in as much as later in the article the President declares that ‘they are attempting to utilise the court for their political agenda, seeking prohibitory orders’ which refers to those opposed to what he characterises as ‘loan optimisation activities’.

“Clearly he seems worried that the Court will take up in the coming week the current Fundamental Rights case challenging the impact on workers’ superannuation funds of the domestic debt restructuring proposed by the Government,” CLD said in a statement.

“This seems an attempt to browbeat the Supreme Court, on the lines of his predecessor’s last disastrous flourish in 1983 when Government goons attacked the homes of Supreme Court judges. Their leader who claimed to be an ordinary citizen was a man called Kalu Lucky, at whose wedding the current President had signed as a witness,” CLD added.

In declaring that the Government would not head orders of the Supreme Court, Ranil Wickremesinghe is taking further the line he has already assumed, which is to ignore all elements which the constitution lays down to uphold the sovereignty of the people, viz (Article 3)

“In the Republic of Sri Lanka sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of Government, fundamental rights and the franchise. He has already flouted directives regarding the franchise and now he moves to the flouting of fundamental rights,” CLD said.

The statement emphasised that the Supreme Court is the guardian of those rights, as laid down in Article 126 – The Supreme Court shall have sole and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question relating to the infringement or imminent infringement by executive or administrative action of any fundamental right or language right declared and recognised by Chapter III or Chapter IV.

The rights under which the case has been brought cannot be restricted, save in one instance where such restrictions have to be by law. Regulations cannot be used to subvert fundamental rights.

The President knows this, and also knows that the article which he seems to rely on, 148, that ‘Parliament shall have full control over public finance’ cannot be exercised without reference to fundamental rights and the sovereignty of the people. But assertions based on wilful misrepresentation of constitutional provisions seems to be the hallmark of the current Government.

“In 1983 the then President claimed to have rolled up the electoral map for years after his referendum. The present President seems to want to follow suit, and without a referendum. He may have forgotten that, following that proud boast, and the attempted intimidation of the Supreme Court, all hell broke loose and the Government was a lame duck for the several years that remained to it following the referendum. The present President was a leading member of that Government, and deeply involved in the hubris of 1983. Like the Bourbons, he seems to have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing about abusing the constitution,” the CLD statement said.