Kumarasinghe spoke to the Nation on what she considered was an affront to the people’s sovereignty, the factors at play in the said matter and what she planned to do in the event things didn’t turn out in her favour.
“There are Ministers with dual citizenship’
‘I am not like the beggars who came into
politics and became rich’
Section 14 of the Parliamentary Elections Act states that anyone qualified as per Article 90 of the Constitution may be nominated as a candidate for an election. Article 90 reads thus: “Every person who is qualified to be an elector shall be qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament unless he is disqualified under the provisions of Article 91.”
Article 91 of the Constitution however deals with disqualifications of Parliamentarians. As per the substitution of Section 20 of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Article 91(1)(d)(xiii) holds that a Sri Lankan citizen possessing dual citizenship cannot be elected as an MP.
Furthermore, Section 92(2)(d) of the said Act holds that the election of a candidate would be void on an election petition on the basis that the candidate was at the time of election, disqualified for such an election, the latter to be determined by an Election Judge when the matter is tried before the Court of Appeal.
In the case of United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Geetha Kumarasinghe, she held both Sri Lankan and Swiss citizenship.
Kumarasinghe claimed that she no longer had Swiss citizenship. Kumarasinghe, from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and presently with the Joint Opposition, was voted into Parliament from the Galle district at the 2015 General election.
Of the six elected to Parliament from the district, Kumarasinghe polled fifth with approximately 62,374 votes.
In 2015, a group of four voters challenged her election on the grounds that she held dual citizenship at the time, which according to the Attorney General she is yet to revoke.
According to submissions made in Court by Senior Deputy Solicitor General Janak de Silva representing the Attorney General regarding her ineligibility to be a Parliamentarian, he had stated that Kumarasinghe was in possession of Swiss citizenship at the time nominations were called for the election and Kumarasinghe had yet to furnish written proof in the form of documents or otherwise attesting to her claim that she had given up her citizenship in Switzerland.
Last week, a two member bench of Judges of the Court of Appeal comprising Justices Priya Padman Surasena and President of the Court, President’s Counsel Vijith K. Malalgoda ruled that Kumarasinghe was thus disqualified and could therefore no longer continue to function as an MP and issued a writ of quo warranto.
Kumarasinghe and her legal representation have since informed that the verdict would be appealed before the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court affirms the Court of Appeal ruling, Piyasena Gamage who polled seventh with approximately 45,245 votes stands to be declared as an MP.
Following is the full interview
Q: What is the basis including the legal grounds for your argument to stay on as an MP?
The legal aspect will have to be queried from the lawyers.
Q: You have said that the people’s sovereignty has been adversely affected by this. Can you explain?
In reality, what has happened is a grave injustice to me and the people who voted for me and elected me.
When the nomination was given to me by the SLFP, no one opposed even though a specified time period was given to raise objections in this regard. An election petition could have been filed, yet even though a timeframe has been specified for this too, it wasn’t lodged. Instead, straightway a Court order in the form of a writ has been sought and obtained.
I am not speaking against the Court’s ruling or criticizing it. I bow down to it. However, all along, there has been a conspiracy regarding this matter. General Secretary of the UPFA, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has already spoken of the next one (Gamage) who is going to be appointed to replace me. Gamage was defeated at the election. The SLFP has presently turned into a Party which takes in those who were defeated puts out those who emerged victorious. What an amazing democracy this is? Is this the kind of statement that a Party insider makes about a Party member?
Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara however said that there is another Court to which I can appeal. That way, he is great for saying that. If Amaraweera and the ilk were opposed, then they should have not given me the nomination at the time. I had on the other hand, at the time of contesting handed over my letter pertaining to withdrawing my dual citizenship. At the time of taking oaths at the swearing in, I had revoked it.
Q: Why then wasn’t this information presented before the Court of Appeal?
This is difficult for me to answer. There is however a reason for it.
Q: What will you do in terms of your political career if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn the Court of Appeal decision and you are thereby effectively no longer functioning as a Parliamentarian?
We will have to wait and see as and when the Supreme Court judgment in this regard is delivered. I am hopeful that justice will be done.
What happened to me and is happening to me can happen to any MP. Am I the only one who had dual citizenship? I no longer have it. I speak with my conscience when I say that I had revoked the dual citizenship and no longer had Swiss citizenship at the time of taking oaths at the swearing in. I lost wealth and other important things as a result of the revocation. No one who obtains citizenship in Switzerland revokes it. I am the only woman in the world who has done so. This is on behalf of the people who voted for me and to fulfill the promises I made to the people.
I am not shaken by this. This week, it came to light that Gamage was rejoicing and getting ready to take my position. What I have to ask him is whether he can look himself in the mirror and touch his heart or tap into his heart and sit in the chair occupied by me after sending out someone who was elected as the people’s choice. Does he not have any shame?
I will not stop my political journey. I will stand on the side of the people. I will continue to give my support to former President (incumbent MP) Mahinda Rajapaksa. I am a courageous woman and it is through sheer determination that I came to this place. I didn’t have any family connections in politics to support me and neither did I engage in any underhand activities as is the case however with some of these people who blab. I am not like certain others who were beggars when they came into politics and subsequently became rich.
Q: Parliament is supreme, even above the judiciary. Do you think a decision can be taken by Parliament in this regard?
That is the question. Does Parliament which makes laws including for and regarding the judiciary, follow Court orders?
It is however not a question of Parliament exercising its power. I reiterate that there was a conspiracy from the beginning. Now what is being talked about is not the crowd that was there for the May Day rally held at Galle Face. Instead, it is this matter that has become the focus. We didn’t expect the Court order to come on the day it did.
Q: Are you implying that the Court was influenced?
I don’t know how, but some however knew that it would come. I don’t know whether there was any influence brought to bear upon the proceedings and the Court. I do however know that there was and is a conspiracy in this regard. There are Ministers with dual citizenship.
Q: Who are they?