Sri Lanka court rules against House dissolution

COLOMBO • Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to dissolve Parliament ahead of its term is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday, in a setback for the embattled leader in his dispute with the prime minister he ousted.

Mr Sirisena dissolved Parliament last month and called a general election for Jan 5, days after sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and naming opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to the post.

The court said Mr Sirisena could not dissolve Parliament before it had completed most of its five-year term. "The President can't dissolve Parliament before 41/2 years," Judge Sisira de Abrew said in summing up the verdict.

The ruling raises the possibility of Mr Wickremesinghe being reinstated as premier since his coalition enjoys a majority in Parliament. Mr Sirisena has repeatedly said he will not appoint him even if he has the backing of all 225 Members of Parliament. There was no immediate comment from his office.

On Wednesday, Parliament passed a vote of confidence in Mr Wickremesinghe. "We trust that the President will promptly respect the judgment of the courts," Mr Wickremesinghe tweeted after the ruling. "The legislature, judiciary, and executive are equally important pillars of a democracy and the checks and balances they provide are crucial to ensuring the sovereignty of its citizens."

Mr Rajapaksa was not immediately available for comment. His son Namal, a lawmaker, tweeted: "We respect the decision of... Supreme Court, despite the fact that we have reservations regarding its interpretation". REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2018, with the headline 'Sri Lanka court rules against House dissolution'. Print Edition | Subscribe