Rajapaksa to be sworn in for second term next month

Rajapaksa, 64 had called for Presidential Election in January 26, 2009 with almost two year still remaining in his first term. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court had ruled on February 2 that his second term after being re-elected would begin from November 19, 2010.

According to the state owned Sunday Observer Newspaper, Rajapaksa will take oath for his second term on November 19, 2010. The recently enacted 18 amendment of the Constitution removes the two term limit for Presidency after being passed by the parliament with 2/3 rd majority last month.

The tenure of Rajapaksa had earlier become the talking point after he called elections two years ahead of schedule. The Third Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution empowers the President to hold elections at the end of four years of the six-year term.

President's Counsel Attorney General Mohan Peiris had submitted that in terms of the Articles 31 of the Constitution, the second term of President Mahinda Rajapaksa should commence on November 19, this year. The question had arisen whether Rajapaksa can take oath from November 2010. While one section of the the third amendment of the constitution says it has to correspond with the date in which he was sworn in the first term (Rajapaksa got elected in November 19, 2005).

Another section of the third amendment however, calls for President assuming office within 14 days after being elected. If not permitted to take oath from November 2010, Rajapaksa could have ruled only for over 10 years if he had to be  sworn in February, 2010 itself for a six year term (by invoking the clause of taking oath within 14 days).

It may be recalled that the country's first Executive President J R Jayawardene despite being elected in 1982 October was sworn in February 1983. Rajapaksa, who advanced the Presidential polls by nearly two years apparently to cash in on the victory over LTTE, won the January 26 polls by a huge margin, defeating opposition candidate, the former army chief Sarath Fonseka.

This was after following the relevant clause of the third amendment which said it should correspond to the date when he assumed his first term (February 4, 1978).

Though Sri Lanka has a six year term for Presidency and Parliament, Rajapaksa will take oath for the second time after completion of five years. The newspaper said the swearing-in ceremony, which was earlier speculated to be held in either Hambantota or Anuradharpura, is now likely to be held in Colombo.

Jayawardene was sworn in as the President on 4th February 1978 and served till 1989. He was re-elected in 1982. In the case of Chandrika Kumaratunga, she got elected in November 12, 1994 but called for an early elections after five years.

She, however, took oath during her second term immediately in 1999 without taking advantage of the third amendment provisions that also enables the corresponding date of the first term presidency to apply,  therefore, Chandrika Kumaratunga could rule only for 11 years.

Otherwise she could have been sworn in from November 2000 and could have ruled till 2006. Kumaratunga, whose six-year term ended in 2005, however later made a plea in the Supreme Court.

Kumaratunga told the court that she assumed her second tenure immediately after getting re-elected only  to remove doubts about her health due to the injury suffered in the LTTE attack, indicating this be considered as special circumstances and she be given an extended term.

While disposing of a case on the date of commencement of office of the then President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, the court ruled  that her second stint commenced from the day she was declared elected.

Mahinda Rajapaksa succeeded her as president in November 2005 leading all 25 parties in the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Rajapaksa on his part had consulted the Supreme Court under Article 129 of the Constitution for its opinion on the commencement of the second term in office.

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