Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe
A three-judge bench of Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka unanimously decided to dismiss the writ petition challenging Presidential candidate of Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The Court of Appeal is to pronounce reasons for the order, in the due course
The petition was filed by two prominent civil society activists, Prof. Chandragupta Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda. They were seeking an Interim Order restraining Gotabaya Rajapaksa from claiming that he is a citizen of Sri Lanka and from acting on the basis of the purported dual citizenship. The primary argument of the plaintiffs is that the purported dual citizenship certificate was not issued by the authority prescribed by law.
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Eventually, the court apparently examined the Presidential powers to issue such certificate in a time the cabinet was not functioning. The dual citizenship for Gotabaya Rajapaksa was issued immediately after his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as the fifth executive president of Sri Lanka in 2005.
The reasons for the President to be in such a hurry to issue dual citizenship to his brother and 19 others, as said, is yet to be explained by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Dual citizenship could be easily obtained by Gotabaya Rajapaksa submitting application, other documents and paying due charges. The question is why they did not perform this simple procedure. Was it because President was in a hurry to appoint his brother as Defense Secretary? It was a period of ceasefire with Tamil rebels and the government could have made a temporary appointment until Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then a US citizen, obtained dual citizenship. Hope they will not commit similar snobbish acts that ultimately are exposed as blunders in future if they regain power.
The petition, however, eventually cleared Gotabaya Rajapaksa of the doubts against his citizenship legally, although their snobbish behaviour when they were in power was exposed. I don’t expect the petitioners will appeal against the Court of Appeal judgment at Supreme Court. They are already subjected to even death threats. A Prominent leader of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s coalition, Madhumadhawa Aravinda made a post on his Facebook reminding the similarities between the names of Viyangoda and Ekneligoda. The latter was disappeared immediately after the second term election of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the then Secretary of the Ministry of Defense.
We must commend Thenuwara and Viyangoda for the bravery on behalf of the citizens for taking the risks of challenging the behaviour of rulers who were in power and trying again to come to power. This is the change occurred after they were defeated in 2015. People do not fear to question the rulers. Mustn’t we safeguard that freedom?