Jan 11, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Supreme Court said it has concluded its hearing on the President Maithripala Sirisena's term in his office and the confidential decision will be conveyed to the President.
The President requested the country's apex court to determine whether his term is six years as stated by the 1978 Constitution when he was sworn in on 9th January 2015 or five years as stated by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which was enacted on 15 May 2015.
President's Office said the President made the request since two different views have been expressed in legal, civil and political circles about the duration of the term of Presidency after the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. In order to dispel this confusion, the President has sought the opinion of the Supreme Court regarding the actual term of office.
The President's Office further said that according to the powers vested on the President under the Constitution, the President has the right to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court. The former Presidents who held office had also sought the opinion of the Supreme Court during their tenures. It is a significant feature in the constitutions of democratic governance.
In response, the President's request was taken up for hearing today (11) by a full five-judge bench chaired by Chief Justice Priyasath Dep and comprised Justices Eva Wanasundera, Buwaneka Aluvihare, Sisira de Abrew and K.T Chithrasiri.
Presenting the facts, Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya told the court that the incumbent president won the election held on January 8, 2015 and sworn in for a six-year term on January 9.
According to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that was enacted on the 15th of May, 2015, says the term of office of a President would be limited to five years.
However, since the incumbent President was sworn in before the 19th Amendment, that provision is not relevant to the President's term. Therefore the President can be in office for six years, the Attorney general said.
Rejecting the Attorney general's argument, lawyers representing the leader of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and former Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, MP Wimal Weerawansa, Prof. Tissa Witharana and the CaFFE organization made submissions that te President cannot stay in office for six years since the 19th Amendment has limited a President's term to five years and current President's term is also limited to five years.
The lawyers representing Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake and Ven. Ulapane Sumangala Thero have presented the facts to the Court saying that there is the possibility for the incumbent President to function for six years. They pointed out that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution came into effect months after President Sirisena was sworn in for a six year-term and therefore that provision was not relevant to the President's term.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court finalized the hearing and ordered the lawyers to hand over any written submissions relevant to the matter to the court before 12 noon tomorrow.
The apex court thereafter, stated that the confidential judgment of the Supreme Court would be conveyed to the President.