Diocese of Colombo urges president to honor the rule of law
The bishop and diocese of Colombo of the Church of Ceylon have denounced as unlawful and anti-democratic last week’s dismissal of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the suspension of Parliament by President Mathripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka.
On 26 Oct 2018, the 133rd meeting of the diocesan synod adopted a statement affirming there were no provisions under the 19th Amendment of Constitution of Sri Lanka to remove a sitting prime minister.
“The democratic framework enshrined in our Constitution should not be abused for political expediency,” said the synod resolution, endorsed by the Bishop of Colombo the Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj R Canagasabey. The church had a duty to speak “truth to power” at moments in the nation’s history when “peace and democratic values have been threatened.”
On Friday 25 Oct 2018 President Sirisena dismissed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and in his place swore in as prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, a former president and one-time political opponent who was accused of human rights abuses and corruption during a decade in power.
On his Facebook page, Mr. Wickremesinghe stated that he would not accept the dismissal, asserting that he remained prime minister. “Convene Parliament, and I will prove it,” he wrote.
The Ceylonese press reported only 98 members of the 225 seat Parliament supported the president, with the majority backing Mr. Wickremesinghe. On the following day, the president suspended parliament and dismissed leaders of key government agencies and ministries replacing them with his supporters.
President Sirisena was a cabinet member in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government until he broke ranks to join Mr. Wickremesinghe in contesting the 2015 elections, which they won by a slim majority.
Mr. Wickremesinghe’s coalition vowed to investigate allegations of war crimes and corruption against Mr. Rajapaksa, who simultaneously served as president and finance minister, while his three brothers served as the defense secretary and ministers of economy and ports. However, since taking power in 2015 infighting amongst the new government has halted the investigations. Observers note the disputes within the ruling party have risen over the past three years, leading to this weekend’s constitutional crisis.
In its synod address, the church urged politicians and civil leaders to uphold the rule of law, promote the common good, and find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.