Ratnapura Tragedy in the face of Westminster Parliamentary Tradition

Ratnapura Tragedy in the face of Westminster Parliamentary Tradition

11 August 2020 08:33 am

SLPP contestant Premalal Jayasekara, who was convicted guilty for murder and sentenced to death row by the High Court, can swear in as a member of parliament, Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayaka told media on Monday (10).

According to Dasanayake's statement, Parliament-elect Jayasekara has been gazetted as a Member of Parliament by the Election Commission, therefore, no legal obstacle stands in his way for the swearing in. Although Jayasekara, or commonly known as 'Choka Malli', was sentenced to death row, the Election Commission emphasised that he had tendered his nominations as a candidate long before the court verdict was made. 

Against all legal interpretations and the so called 'intellectual talks' behind the incident, the final picture is clear that a convicted murderer is elected as a member to the Supreme Parliament of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the Parliament is functioned according to the British Westminster Tradition. Having it reminisced, this should be the first time in Wesminster Tradition's history that a convicted murderer is elected to Parliament, whilst the sentence continues to stand in effect. 

Soon after Jayasekara was convicted guilty and sentenced to death row, the SLPP had acted on having senior attorney Vasudewa Nanayakkara - a former icon in left politics - in an immediate press conference to urge the public to vote Jayasekara with the highest number of preferential votes as possible, despite the court verdict. Nanayakkara developing rather an interesting legal argument had told media that a death row declared by the High Court can be overruled soon after a petition is lodged with the Appeal Court.

May be we are not matured enough to understand how a verdict declared by the High Court is overruled before the Appeal Court even considers to hear the petition. 

On the other hand, who would be responsible for all the bills passed by Jayasekara as a member of Parliament, was the death row upheld by the Appeal Court? Unless the Appeal Court verdict is written in favour of Choka Malli, such scenario cannot happen in the Supreme Parliament. Or, are we to understand that the fate of Choka Malli is already written by unseen hands, that people like Vasudewa Nanayakkara and Dhammika Dasanayake are merely glimpsing us of what is to come in the near future - a trailer of the biggest blockbuster for the next five years?

Jayasekara was elected to Parliament by over one hundred thousand preferential votes cast by the people of Ratnapura, therefore, this can be interpreted as the sovereingty of people. But it is a well known fact that a state has no place to do what the people want has it been limited by the legal framework to which it responds. Law does not allow people to commit murder, commit suicide, or even to protest against a government elected by none other than themselves. 

People who voted for Jayasekara aka Choka Malli should be a separate conversation way beyond our understanding. Prasanna Ranaweera - or commonly known as Miris Kudu Prasanna - who threw chili in the Parliament Chambers, had once called on the public at the brink of the 2020 Polls and urged them to vote for only intellectuals. But what his loyal followers did was exactly the opposite, thereby rejecting his own request and sending him to Parliament instead. That being said, even the most logical political analyst could be lost at the point of interpreting about those who voted for Jayasekara.

So, may we have no problem with those who voted for them. The real problem is the senior lawyers like Vasudewa Nanayakkara and Dhammika Dasanayake - the ones that are well versed in law - who continue to involve in this process, by justifying and defending a convicted murderer to have him entered in Parliament, the supreme law-making body of Sri Lanka; the fact that senior lawyers are standing by a convicted criminal.

If law is a framework, there will be no further framing to it, once it is broken in one place. Therefore, the legal framework weakens every time governments tend to break it to their advantage. It weakens the system of the state that is protected by the very fabric of legal framework, ending in collateral damage in the whole systyem. This is a friendly reminder to those with the slightest bit of political conscience - that you are playing with fire!