By Rathindra Kuruwita

The resolution to remove the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), presented in Parliament yesterday, marked another ominous turning point in Sri Lankan politics, Freedom People’s Congress (FPC) MP Prof. Charitha Herath said yesterday.

“What MPs are trying to do is to remove the Chairman of an independent commission because he has a disagreement with the line minister. MPs are trying to remove PUCSL Chairman Janaka Rathnayaka to please the Minister of Power and Energy. This will set another bad example,” he said.

Herath said a similar incident took place when former CJ Shirani Bandaranayake was impeached by Parliament and then removed from office by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in January 2013.

“I think it’s a very unparliamentary step. The PUCSL was established in 2002 to act like an ombudsman in a way. A minister can’t remove members of the PUCSL, except with permission from the legislature,” he said.

MP Herath said that on the one hand the government talked about making the Central Bank independent but on the other hand it tried to remove the chairman of an independent commission because he disagrees with the minister.

“The problem with the PUCSL Chairman started when he objected to the government making ad hoc decisions on the electricity tariffs and his demand for continuous power, during the GCE AL exam. The Chairman insisted that the government adhere to the established process. We are now in a political conjunction. The local and Provincial Councils have been dissolved. The President was appointed by MPs and has no people’s mandate. So, only the Parliament remains as somewhat of a legitimate institution. The role of the President and the Cabinet now is to ensure that we go through this interim period, without disaster, and then hold elections,” he said.

Prof. Herath said that one of the main reasons why the 2010-2015 Mahinda Rajapaksa administration had lost public support was the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake.

“She was impeached legally but it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It is the same with the PUCSL Chairman now,” he said.