Colombo, October 4 (newsin.asia): The Sri Lankan Court of Appeal on Friday rejected a petition challenging the citizenship of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in the Lankan Presidential election to be held on November 16.
The plaint filed by civil rights activists Prof. Chandragupta Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda had said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Dual Citizenship Certificate issued on November 21, 2005 was invalid because it was not signed by the relevant Ministerial Secretary and the Minister concerned. It was signed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya’s elder brother, who had just then assumed office. With this he had obtained a Sri Lankan passport and a National Identity Card.
The petitioners further said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa later claimed that he had renounced his American citizenship to be able to stand for the Lankan Presidential election under the provisions of the 19 th., Amendment of 2015.
The petitioners recalled that the Dual Citizenship Certificate had been issued by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on November 21, 2005, at a time when, as per law, the cabinet of ministers had resigned along with the Secretaries of the various ministries. Upon the election of a President, the cabinet resigns as do the ministerial Secretaries, to enable the President to appoint a cabinet and secretaries of his choice. This process takes about 10 days. The petitioners argued that during this period, when there are no ministers and secretaries, the President cannot take any executive decisions. This being so, President Rajapaksa had circumvented the set procedure and unlawfully granted a Dual Citizenship Certificate to Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the gap.
But it was argued on behalf of the Attorney General that during the period when there are no cabinet ministers or ministerial secretaries, the directly elected Executive President exercises all executive power under what are called his “plenary” powers. All signatures put by him during this period are valid under law. There cannot be a time in a country when a government cannot take decisions or when there is an executive vacuum.
The counsels for the Attorney General and other defendants pointed out that President Rajapaksa had exercised his “plenary powers” in the absence of a cabinet of ministers and ministerial secretaries. Therefore, the Dual Citiznship Certificate granted to Gotabaya Rajapaksa by President Rajapaksa was completely lawful.
Counsel for Gotabaya Rajapaksa also pointed out that 21 others had been granted the Dual Citizenship Certificate on the day on which Gotabaya was granted one, namely, November 21, 2005.
The three-judge Court of Appeal, which heard the case for three consecutive days, accepted the arguments of the defendants and dismissed the petition.
With this, the Presidential election will acquire momentum, which it had been lacking so far. Firstly, the ruling United National Party (UNP) took more than a month to find an official candidate, though Sajith Premadasa, the Deputy Leader of the party, had announced his candidature and begun campaigning. Secondly, there was doubt about SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa being released from US citizenship. Dual citizens cannot stand for elections in Sri Lanka under the 19 th.Amendment of 2015. The US State Department was not announcing his renunciation though he was saying that he had the release certificate.
When this matter was cleared, a fresh problem arose: two civil rights workers filed a case in the Court of Appeal saying that Gotabaya had got Dual Citizenship unlawfully. The case was filed at the 11 th. hour when a legal delay could have resulted in Gotabaya’s not being able to file his nomination for the election on the designated day.