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When law is treated like a farce, Parliamentarians will be nothing but farce

"What is at stake today is the very meaning of having a parliament at all. The parliament that cannot make a law is not a parliament at all. "

By Our Colombo Desk

(April 08, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In Sri Lanka the elections for the new parliament will be held today. Today's elections will decide who will sit as parliamentarians in the next parliament . This comes at a time when the very meaning of parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka is at stake. What meaning does the parliament in Sri Lanka have when it is controlled by the president who is placed above the law by the constitution? This is the question that the new parliamentarians, if they are to make things better in the country will have to deal with decisively once and for all. However, can they and will address this all important problem?

The function of the parliament is to make legislation. Legislating simply means making the laws for the nation. What does legislating mean if the head of the executive is above the law? The very essence of law making is challenged if the laws that they will make have no application to the head of the government. What then are those laws for? If the head of the state is not bound to follow the laws that are made by the parliament then who else is bound to follow the laws?

What is at stake today is the very meaning of having a parliament at all. The parliament that cannot make a law is not a parliament at all. On the other hand if the law that the parliament makes does not bind the head of the state then that parliament does not have legislative power at all.

Parliamentary democracy became meaningful only at the point when the law was considered to be above everybody including the king. In England this question was decided by the beheading of Charles VI who was not willing to accept the supremacy of the parliament. With that act the parliament of the United Kingdom became the supreme body of legislature, the supreme body that makes the law for everyone.

There are democratic countries that have presidential systems however, all these presidents are subjected to the laws of the country and they are subjected to the laws of the legislative bodies. Once the legislative bodies make their laws the chief executive of the state is bound to implement them whether such laws are right or wrong from his point of view. He too can engage in lobbying the nation to have the type of legislation that he would like to have. It will become law only when the legislators of that country pass the law and once it is passed he like everybody else is bound by that law.

Whether the parliament that will be elected today will be a parliament in a constitutional sense, or whether it will be a parliament only in name but has no real power at all will be decided in the way this parliament will deal with the 1978 Constitution . Either the parliament will undo 1978 Constitution or it will undo the parliamentarians to be do nothings.

On the newly elected will hangs an enormous task of either creating a country without law or a country that is subjected to the law. If the decision that they make is to continue with the 1978 Constitution they will continue to have the same nation which has now become a nation without law.

The principle that the president is above the law has influenced the entire structure of the state and today the law has been relegated to an unimportant place. What the chief executive wants is done whether it goes against the law and even the Constitution itself. Under that setup the system of courts have very little real meaning. The courts do not have the real power to go against the president. In fact, the president can deal with the courts and almost all officials of the state in whatever the manner he wishes. The powers of appointment, transfers, dismissal and disciplinary control all depend on the fancy of the head of the state.

The issue is not who the head of the state is but the power that the head of the state has to treat the law as if it were shit. Whether that situation can be made to change by the coming parliament will decide whether this parliament will make sense to the people or will once again only be a further curse on a lawless nation.

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