The writ application filed in the Court of Appeal challenging the legal validity of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Sri Lankan citizenship has thrown a spanner in the works of his presidential campaign, with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna in crisis talks to find an alternative in the event the former Defence Secretary is disqualified from contesting the November 16th election.
On Monday night party leaders in the SLPP led alliance met at Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Wijerama Mawatha residence for talks about how the party will face the latest legal challenge posed on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s candidacy. Sources told Colombo Telegraph that the SLPP was mulling fielding former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa in Gotabaya’s stead, if the court ruling goes against the former Defence Secretary.
Civil Society Activists Gamini Viyangoda and Chandraguptha Thenuwara filed the writ application last Friday, contesting Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship certificated allegedly issued on 21 November 2005 as a legally valid document. The petition argues that a person who is not a Sri Lankan citizen cannot contest to be president of Sri Lanka.
The petition which will be heard by a three judge bench of the Court of Appeal led by President of the Court Justice Yasantha Kodagoda
The two other judges set to hear the petition are Justices Arjuna Obeysekera and Mahinda Samayawardane. The petitioners are seeking to suspend the operation of Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship certificate since they submit it has been obtained illegally. The petition is also seeking to stop Gotabaya Rajapaksa or his agents from claiming he is a citizen of Sri Lanka. If upheld the petition could disqualify Rajapaksa from contesting in the 16 November presidential election.
The writ application is based on startling revelations in a CID B report filed at the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court on 26 September (Thursday) which contained nearly a hundred pages of annexed documents supporting the agency’s findings. The CID told the Chief Magistrate that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship file was not available at any one of the ministries or departments it should have been in. Statements from the Department of Immigration and Ministry of Defence said the files were not in their position. The CID has been unable to trace an application for dual citizenship filed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2005.
However Colombo Telegraph learns that all dual citizenship files are in the custody of the Department of Immigration and Emigration, even though Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s entire file is missing.
Making matters worse Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship certificate number 15305 is assigned to another individual, the CID investigation found.
The SLPP scrambling to defend Rajapaksa after the petition was fixed for support on Wednesday and Thursday at the Court of Appeal released the former Defence Secretary’s purported Dual Citizenship certificate on Twitter yesterday. The disclosure led to even more questions.
In October 2016 Gotabaya Rajapaksa submitted his dual citizenship certificate to the Registration of Persons Department when he was applying for a new National ID. The certificate submitted by Rajapaksa himself as part of his NIC application bears the certificate number 15305A. However the certificate published on Twitter by SLPP politico Kanchana Wijesekera bore the number 15305. It is unclear which certificate has been doctored to include or delete the “A”.
Amid all the uncertainty Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s lawyers today applied for his passport that is currently in the custody of the Permanent High Court at Bar in Colombo where he is on trial for criminal misappropriation of Rs 33.9 million to build a memorial for his parents in Hambantota. His lawyers told court that Rajapaksa needed his passport returned to seek medical treatment in Singapore from 9th to 13th October.
However the Attorney General told court in reply to the motion by Rajapaksa’s lawyers that they had no objections to the 1st accused seeking to go overseas but would require his counsel to present the relevant documentation to court before the order was considered. Judges at the permanent high court put off giving an order until 3rd October.
Political circles were buzzing with speculation that Rajapaksa was trying to get his passport out of the court in order to ensure he could rush out of the country in the event the Court of Appeal ruling goes against him this week. An adverse ruling would end his presidential hopes since nominations must be filed by 7th October. Rajapaksa may have sought to keep his passport handy in order to leave the country in a rush if necessary, sources told Colombo Telegraph, especially since the petition was seeking to suspend the operation of his travel document and NIC as part of the interim relief prayed for. “The eleventh hour court case has really set the cat among the pigeons in the SLPP camp and the Gotabaya campaign team,” a politically well placed source told Colombo Telegraph. “If it goes well, maybe Gotabaya will be president. If it goes badly, he will be a man without a country,” the source added.