Dual-citizenship blowback

Island Editorial

The SLFP (Maithri faction) may not have thought its desperate move to deprive the Joint Opposition (JO) of one MP would lead to such a huge blowback. It successfully moved the judiciary against UPFA MP and Mahinda loyalist Geetha Kumarasinghe on the grounds that she had been a dual citizen at the time she was nominated to contest the last general election. The government which has not yet taken any action against Treasury bond racketeers went hell for leather to have the court decision implemented. Its selective efficiency is really amazing! Kumarasinghe has appealed to the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal judgment and obtained a stay order, which is valid till today.

There are said to be several dual citizens in Parliament including some failed candidates appointed via the National List. The Court of Appeal judgment, disqualifying Kumarasinghe from being an MP, is likely to lead to a situation where the UPFA will lose several of its MPs with dual citizenship within its ranks. Her disqualification should lead to the cancellation of the UPFA’s Galle District nomination list, some legal experts have argued. A similar situation is likely to occur in other districts where the UPFA fielded dual citizens at the 2015 parliamentary polls. In such an eventuality, the UPFA may lose about 10 of its MPs including several National List members, some lawyers have argued.

Activists of the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) are among those who argue that the Court of Appeal judgment at issue could lead to several legal challenges against the lists of UPFA candidates in Galle and Matara Districts where dual citizens contested the last general election. There is, however, another school of thought, which claims that the question of the entire UPFA nomination list being rejected does not arise and only the MP concerned will lose her seat.

The legal requirement that MPs, unseated due to being a dual citizen at the time of contesting, return what they have obtained by way of salaries and perks reminds us of a presidential decree which caused a Chief Justice to disappear, so to speak, soon after the 2015 regime change. There are some unresolved issues concerning the post of the head of the judiciary from 2013 to 2015 and they are bound to manifest themselves sooner or later.

One may recall that in 2015, President Sirisena decided that the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake in 2013 was illegal, the post of the Chief Justice had not fallen vacant and, therefore, her successor, Mohan Peiris, had never been the CJ! Now that Kumarasinghe has been required to return what she has received as an MP from the state, the question is why no such action has been taken in respect of CJ Peiris, who had not been the CJ according to the President! Peiris headed the judiciary, heard cases, wrote and signed judgments and other vital documents, made appointments, drew the salary of the CJ and enjoyed various perks. Strangely, the government hasn’t taken any action to recover the losses the state has suffered as a result? Is it because the yahapalana leaders fear that the matter will end up in courts if they try to do so and, therefore, don’t want to open up a can of worms for themselves?

It is being argued in some quarters that the dual citizenship issue has led to a legal battle as there was some confusion at the time of the submission of nomination papers in 2015 over the 19th Amendment’s bearing on the existing election laws. Some returning officers disregarded objections to the nomination of the candidates alleged to be dual citizens, stating that the courts would sort out the issue later. This is what happens when politicians introduce constitutional amendments in a hurry and implement them without giving two hoots about the need to update the existing laws in line with them.

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