Bar wants hearing on Sri Lanka presidential terms

72074_feef1ddCOLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s Bar Association on Friday asked the Supreme Court to hold an oral hearing on whether President Mahinda Rajapaksa could seek a third term in office.
Rajapaksa on Thursday sought the court’s opinion if he could contest an election two years before his second term ends. The constitution has been changed to allow a third term, but there is debate over whether the change applies to Rajapaksa.
The president wants the court to rule by Monday, and the court gave the Bar Association until Friday evening to submit its arguments, only in writing.
Bar Association President Upul Jayasuriya wrote to the Supreme Court on Friday seeking up to two weeks and an oral hearing.
“The incumbent president of the republic has over two years left of his term of office. There is no urgency in this matter and certainly no urgency such as would require refusal of an extension of time of up to two weeks,” Jayasuriya wrote.
Rajapaksa in 2010 used his party’s overwhelming two-thirds majority in Parliament to scrap a two-term limit for president; however some legal experts argue that the changes could only take effect to the presidents after Rajapaksa because he was elected under the old rule.

The Supreme Court judges are his appointees, so the court is widely expected to rule in favor of Rajapaksa. He took over the authority to appoint judges under the same 2010 constitutional change and last year his party lawmakers impeached a sitting chief justice and appointed his own aide.
Rajapaksa was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2010 riding on his popularity after leading a successful military campaign to end a 25-year civil war.

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