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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Court rejects challenge to Gotabaya Rajapaksa's citizenship

    Lakshini Fernando
    Asia Securities
    7 October 2019
    Published by

    The 3-day hearing on the status of Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s citizenship concluded on Friday 4 October, with the Court of Appeal dismissing the petition, and thereby not taking it up for consideration. The basis on which the case was filed by the petitioners was that Mr Rajapaksa, who was president in 2005, did not have the authority to sign Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship papers. 

    In our view, the dismissal was on the basis that the executive power enjoyed by the president until the cabinet is appointed into each ministry allowed Mr Rajapaksa to legally approve Mr Gotabaya’s dual citizenship status. We note that our conversations with political analysts indicate that the 3-member bench did not have a history of being controversial, and therefore view this as the correct decision made. Our conversations also indicate that on constitutional grounds, the Supreme Court is the ultimate authority on interpreting the constitution and the Court of Appeal cannot give a verdict on this petition.

    Furthermore, it also appears that Mr Gotabaya’s US citizenship has been renounced, and he is clear of all barriers to run for the upcoming presidential elections

    As next steps, the petitioners have the option of taking up the challenge in Supreme court during a 6-week period once the reasoning for the dismissal is given. In our view, there is a high probability that this will be taken up in Supreme court in the following weeks. 

    Meanwhile, media reports indicate that President Sirisena and his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) have pledged their support to back Mr Rajapaksa for the upcoming elections. While this indicates the deteriorated voter base for the SLFP due to the unpopularity of the president, we expect this move to further boost the popularity of the SLPP.