Court dashes president’s hope of long term

SRI LANKA’S top court has re­jected a controversial attempt to extend president Maithripala Sirisena’s term in office by an extra year, further souring the ruling party’s relations with its coalition partners.  

Sirisena had asked the su­preme court whether a limit on presidential terms, which he in­troduced in 2015 as part of measures to curb the power of the executive, applied to his own mandate.  

His chief attorney general last week told the court that the con­stitutional provision reducing terms from six to five years would not apply to the incumbent.  

But that position was unani­mously rejected by the five-judge bench which ruled that Sirisena was not exempt from the law, official sources said.  

“The Supreme Court has con­veyed the opinion that the Presi­dent’s term of office is five years,” Sirisena’s office said in a state­ment on Monday (15).  

“The court arrived at this opinion after the President sought its opinion with regard to the term of office of the incum­bent President.”  

Efforts to extend Sirisena’s rule have further strained rela­tions with his main coalition partner, which has indicated it may go it alone in the next gen­eral election in 2020.  

The United National Party joined hands with Sirisena to top­ple Mahinda Rajapakse in January 2015, ending the strongman presi­dent’s decade in power. But since then their alliance has fractured, with Sirisena clashing with his prime minister Ranil Wickrem­esinghe over economic policy.  

Sirisena has publicly accused Wickremesinghe’s UNP of being more corrupt than the regime which together they helped oust.  

During his rule, Rajapakse granted himself greater powers over the police, judiciary and civil servants, excesses which Sirisena pledged to curb upon his election.  

Parliament voted overwhelm­ingly in early 2015 to restrict the power of the presidency, restor­ing a two-term limit and reviving independent bodies to manage key institutions such as the po­lice and the judiciary.