AG informs PM’s Secy on legal procedure

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The Attorney General has informed the Secretary to the Prime Minister of the legal procedure that would follow with the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

While setting out the Constitutional provisions that would be relevant following the resignation of Rajapaksa, as set out in Article 38 (1) and Article 40, the Attorney General also focused on Rule 7 of Standing Orders of the Parliament.

Article 38 (1) of the Constitution sets out instances where the office of President becomes vacant, which include the resignation of the President from his office in writing under his hand addressed to the Speaker.

Further, Article 40 of the Constitution states if the office of President becomes vacant prior to the expiration of his term of office, Parliament shall elect as President one of its Members who is qualified to be elected to the office of President.

Any person so succeeding to the office of President shall hold office only for the unexpired period of the term of office of the President vacating office. Article 40 further states that such election shall be held as soon as possible after, and not later than one month.

 Such election shall be by secret ballot and by an absolute majority of the votes cast in accordance with such procedure as Parliament may by law provide, provided that if such vacancy occurs after the dissolution of Parliament, the President shall be elected by the new Parliament within one month of its first meeting.

Further, during the period between the position being vacant and the assumption of office by the new President, the Prime Minister shall act in the office of President and shall appoint one of the other Ministers of the Cabinet to act in the office of Prime Minister, provided that if the office of Prime Minister be then vacant or the Prime Minister is unable to act, the Speaker shall act in the office of President.

According to Rule 7 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, in the event a President to be elected in terms of Article 40 (1) (b) of the Constitution, the Parliament shall follow the procedure specified in the Presidential Election (Special Provisions) Act, No. 2 of 1981 to conduct the secret ballot using ballot papers.

The Attorney General conveyed the Legal procedure in response to an inquiry made by the Secretary to the Prime Minister, Saman Ekanayake.

Following the 9 July anti-Government protest, Rajapaksa informed the Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena that he will step down on 13 July following which Abeywardena said nominations to appoint a President will be called on 19 July after summoning Parliament on 15 July to announce Rajapaksa’s resignation while President will be appointed on 20 July.