Cannot Reconvene Parliament says the President

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Kshama Ranawana

Parliament cannot be reconvened, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has informed members of Opposition political parties, in a letter dated April 30, 2020.

The President’s response was conveyed by a letter signed by Secretary to the President P B Jayasundera, that Parliament cannot be recalled as the general election scheduled to be held on April 25th, following the Gazette notification which dissolved parliament on March 3, 2020, has now been set to be held on June 20, 2020 by the Election Commission.

He has also informed the opposition parties that a requirement to reconvene parliament under 70 (7) of the constitution has not arisen.

A press release from the Presidential Secretariat states that the President’s response has been sent to former Leader of the Opposition, Sajith Premadasa.

The letter also tells the opposition parties leaders  who wrote to the President on April 27th, requesting that parliament be reconvened, that their request is an indication that the parties do not want an election. As well, this request by the parties, when the government, health, police and Tri-Forces officers are committed to fighting the spread of COVID-19, says the letter, is to devalue those efforts  for narrow political gain.

Parliament can be dissolved at the end of its five year term or at the discretion of the President, which step he took, in dissolving parliament on March 3 this year, the letter adds. Additionally, it states, that because the political parties were in agreement with that action, all the signatories to the letter sent to the President had validated the dissolution of parliament.

The April 27th letter sent by leaders of several political parties and alliances called on President Rajapaksa to reconvene parliament and pave the way for all political parties to jointly work with the government to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

The parties requested the President to revoke the March 3 order dissolving parliament so that the many governance issues that have come up could be addressed.   ‘Getting appropriate and new legislation passed in order to meet the public health crisis and obtaining parliamentary sanction to the utilization of monies from the Consolidated Fund are some such important and urgent functions of Parliament,’ stated that letter.

They stated that as the number of COVID-19 patients had increased in the past several days, the possibility of holding an election as scheduled was remote.  With the unpredictability of the situation, the political parties stated that it was time to put aside political differences and ‘working together for the common good of the people and the country amidst an unprecedented crisis.”

The letter also assured the public that the parliamentarians would not draw a salary or attempt to defeat the government or thwart any of its legitimate actions, stating that ‘‘Our good faith has already been demonstrated by the fact that we have cooperated fully with the government in maintaining the “curfew”, although the same has not been imposed legally.”

The letter sent to the President was signed by Samagi Balawegaya leader Sajith Premadasa,  UNP leader  Ranil Wickremesinghe, TNA leader R Sambanthan, Hela Urumaya leader Patali Champika Ranawaka,  Tamil Progressive Alliance leader Mano Ganesan, All Ceylon Makkal Congress leader Rishad Bathiudeen and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauf Hakeem.

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