Repetition of the sentiments expressed from the opposition benches under the veil of privilege may always influence the people to believe that the proclamations so made are at least bordering the truth. This the fear which is lurking in the minds of those close to the higher echelons of the government



The opening of the Kalyani Golden Gate bridge was one of the significant events of the week. It bore more gravity, not because of the opening of the new bridge, but because of the political connotations of the speech made by the president following the event.

It was clear from the presidents speech that he wanted to send a strong message to the opposition and to some smaller parties in the government who are discreetly trying to cause upheavals in the president’s political juggernaut which alas, appears to be coming undone at the seams.

Coming back to the Kalyani Golden Gate Bridge, it came into being under the auspices of the Japanese International Co-operation Agency (JICA).

When the Yahapalana government took office, the proposal to build the Golden Gate Bridge was just in the pipeline. The Road Development Authority (RDA) of Sri Lanka did the spadework to make it a reality and negotiated with JICA officials to select a prospective bidder to whom they could offer the contract. It was a difficult task to relocate at least four hundred families who were to be displaced due to the new bridge. The RDA purchased a newly built apartment complex from the Urban Development Authority to relocate them.

The other task was to find families who were entitled to be resettled. Most of those who made a claim for the new dwelling houses did not possess valid proof of marriage. However, the RDA settled other outstanding issues expeditiously even with much difficulty .

The move enabled them to proceed with the bridge project. Nevertheless, a small warehouse belonging to the Atomic Energy Authority became an eyesore and made it difficult for theRDA to move it out. The accomplishment of a good part of the work connected with the bridge became a reality between 2015 to 2019. It brought new Japanese technology and the bridge has similarities to that of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Without doubt, it is a new technological innovation in Sri Lanka’s engineering history.

What is more significant is the speech made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the eventand the political hiccups it caused.

The president was talking about those who were responsible for the Easter Sunday attack. He said he has already handed over the findings of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry which was appointed by the previous regime to the Attorney General for his perusal and to frame charges against the suspects. If somebody wants to do it expeditiously, we can do it through an act of parliament’, he said. He went on to say that the Commission of Inquiry which was appointed had found that the former president, prime minister and the entire cabinet of ministers were negligent for not preventing the attacks. ” We can introduce an act of parliament to punish them. We can bar them from repeating the same mistake or offence,” he said while adding that there is a precedent in parliament to this effect. The president was alluding to stripping the civic rights of individuals who are responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks. The president also emphasised that he has the mandatory two-thirds majority in parliament to do this. The president’s assertion came as a threat to parliamentarians, especially in the opposition who repeatedly attempted to establish an invisible hand behind the Easter Sunday attack. Relentless attacks by the opposition have pressed the government to find a way out of this annoying issue. Hence the president’s words of caution to be careful when you ask for something.

Repetition of the sentiments expressed from the opposition benches under the veil of privilege may always influence the people to believe that the proclamations so made are at least bordering the truth. This is the fear lurking in the minds of those close to the higher echelons of the government. The president’s announcement about stripping civic rights was a calculated move. The announcement had a chilling effect for many in the government and the opposition who held cabinet portfolios in the previous Yahapalana regime. Some of them hurried to determine how the government could muster a two-thirds majority and went through the instances where it could accomplish this.

However, a scrutiny shows that the SLPP failed to obtain a two-thirds majority during the parliamentary elections. They were short of a few seats to accomplish their dream under the proportional representation system. In the circumstances, the government had to seek the assistance of the Muslim parliamentarians to get the 20th amendment passed in parliament. The government also simultaneously repealed the 19th amendment which banned dual citizens from being elected or nominated to parliament. The Constitutional Council which guaranteed independent nominations to higher governmental positions was also abolished. The two-thirds majority the president was talking about did not come easily but came about byluring parliamentarians.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena fired the first verbal volley at the assertions made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He told parliament that if the Sri Lanka Freedom Party withdrew its support the government will lose its two-thirds majority in parliament. He also  pointed out that there is a precedent where parliament has passed resolutions depriving individuals of their civic rights.

In 1980 the government of President J.R Jayewardene passed a resolution against former Prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike depriving her civic rights. It was done on the strength of the findings of a Special Presidential Commission which was appointed to probe charges of abuse of power against a few individuals of Mrs Bandaranaike’s government, including her. A case was filed against the move to set up a Special Presidential Commission under a new constitution with retrospective effect. The Court of Appeal which inquired into the matter held with Mrs Bandaranaike’s petition which prompted the Jayewardene administration to amend the 1978 constitution. The Special Presidential Commission which had quasi-judicial powers proceeded to hear the case amidst a howl of protests from the opposition. The outcome was that Mrs Bandaranaike and several others lost their civic rights. That included Mrs Bandranaike’s erstwhile lieutenant Felix Dias Bandaranaike.

The first Special Presidential Commission comprised two Supreme Court Judges and a Judge of the Court of Appeal. They were Justices J.G.TWeeraratne, S. Sharvananda and K. C De Alwis. The latter happened to be a brother-in-law of constitutional lawyer and Minister Colvin R De Silva. Article 81 of the constitution that dealt with the Special Presidential Commissions is as follows.


Where a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry established under the Special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry Law, No. 07 of 1978 and consisting of a member each of whom is a Judge of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court or the District Court recommends that any person should be madesubject to civic disability by reason of any act done or omitted to be done by such person before or after the commencement of the Constitution, Parliament may by resolution pass by not less than two-thirds of the whole number  – Substituted by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution Sec. 4 for “duly approved by the People at a Referendum”. Expulsion of Members and imposition of civic disability TheConstitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka of Members (including those not present) voting in its favour – (a) impose civic disability on such person for a period not exceeding seven years, and (b) expel such person from Parliament, if he is a Member of Parliament. Where a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry consists of more than one member, a recommendation made by the majority of such members, in case of any difference of opinion, shall be, and shall be deemed for all purposes to be, the recommendation of such Commission of Inquiry. (2) No such resolution shall be entertained by the Speaker or placed on the Order Paper of Parliament unless introduced by the Prime Minister with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. ( 3 )The Speaker shall endorse on every resolution passed in accordance with the preceding provisions of this Article a certificate in the following form:– “This resolution has been duly passed by Parliament in accordance with the provisions of Article 81 of the Constitution.” Every such Certificate shall be conclusive for all purposes and shall not be questioned in any court, and no court or tribunal shall inquire into, or pronounce upon or in any manner call in question, the validity of such resolution on any ground whatsoever. (4) In this Article, “District Court” means a District Court created and established by existing law and includes a Court that may be created by Parliament to exercise and perform powers and functions corresponding or substantially similar to the powers and functions exercised and performed by the District Court.


According to the constitution, the Special Presidential Commission has to recommend civic disability on an individual. The Commission has to state in the findings whether they recommend such a civic disability. The word “responsibility” will not give any legal credence to pass a resolution against an individual. In these circumstances, a legal mind has to peruse and interpret the findings to ascertain the Commission’s findings to arrive at a conclusion.

The cabinet of ministers has a greater responsibility to go through the resolution thoroughly without being mere signal posts and approving any resolution to the effect. Finally, it will be the prime minister who bears responsibility to present the resolution to the House for an endorsement with a two-third majority of the entire membership of the House.

It is also a fact that there are findings by the Commission against many others, including Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero and a band of senior police officers. Hence it will be incumbent on the government to include them all in the resolution. However, if the government tries to go through a parliamentary process selectively, it could cause a legal hiatus.

A similar issue surfaced at the Privy Council when they heard the appeal in the 1962 coup attempt to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The main contention of the defence was that the government, in this instance, amended the Criminal Procedure Code with the sole intention of trying the accused in the case. Therefore ad hominem resolutions could not be permissible. All in all, the president’s assertions are just a passing remark not to be construed seriously but merely to put the opposition in its place. .Alakeswara



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