The MP made this statement in the context of questions being raised about why MP Johnston Fernando was appointed to the ‘new’ cabinet (sworn on 4 April 2022), following the resignation of all cabinet ministers save the prime minister. He justifies the appointment on the basis that parliament cannot convene unless the chief government whip and leader of the house have taken oaths as cabinet members.
To evaluate this claim, FactCheck.lk examined the provisions of the constitution and the standing orders of parliament.
Article 74(1)(ii) of the constitution states that parliament may by law or standing order provide for the regulation of its business.
The only requirement placed by the constitution in relation to key officers is that whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of speaker, deputy speaker or deputy chairman of committees, parliament must elect another member to fill that vacancy when it first meets thereafter (article 64(3)). This requirement is also reflected in the present standing orders of parliament (standing orders 2 and 6(1)). Neither the constitution nor the standing orders state that the post of chief government whip has to be filled to conduct parliamentary business.
Furthermore, there is no requirement in the standing orders that the chief government whip (or the leader of the house) must be a cabinet minister. Information available on the parliament website shows that in the past, parliament has had chief government whips who were not cabinet ministers.
The MP is twice wrong in that (a) it is not correct that parliament cannot meet without the chief government whip, and (b) it is not correct that the whip should be a cabinet minister. Therefore, we classify his statement as BLATANTLY FALSE.
*FactCheck.lk’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck.lk will revisit the assessment.
- 64. (3) Whenever the office of Speaker, Deputy Speaker or Deputy Chairman of Committees becomes vacant otherwise than as a result of a dissolution of Parliament, Parliament shall at its first meeting after the occurrence of the vacancy elect another Member to be the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, or the Deputy Chairman of Committees, as the case may be.
- (1) Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, Parliament may by resolution or Standing Order provide for –
(i) the election and retirement of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, and the Deputy Chairman of Committees
(ii) the regulation of its business, the preservation of order at its sittings and any other matter for which provision is required or authorized to be so made by the Constitution.
- Whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of the Speaker, Parliament shall, at its first meeting after the occurrence of the vacancy, proceed to elect a Speaker
- (1) At the first sitting of a newly elected Parliament as specified in Standing Order 1, or at the commencement of Public Business at the first meeting of Parliament after the occurrence of a vacancy in the office of Deputy Speaker or of Deputy Chairperson of Committees, Parliament shall proceed to the election of a Deputy Speaker or Deputy Chairperson of Committees, as the case may be.
COMMITTEE ON PARLIAMENTARY BUSINESS
- There shall be a Committee to be designated the Committee on Parliamentary Business consisting of the Speaker who shall be the Chair, the Deputy Speaker, the Deputy Chairperson of Committees, the Leader of the House of Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, the Chief Government Whip, the Chief Opposition Whip and eight other Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection. It shall be the duty of the Committee on Parliamentary Business to consider and decide on the time that should be allocated for the discussion of such Business of Parliament and such other matters as the Speaker, in consultation with the Leader of the House of Parliament, may refer to the Committee. The minutes of meetings of the Committee on Parliamentary Business shall be circulated to all Members.
Constitution of Sri Lanka available at https://www.parliament.lk/files/pdf/constitution.pdf.
Standing Orders of Parliament available at https://parliament.lk/files/pdf/standing-orders-en.pdf.
Parliament website, ‘Chief government whips’, available at https://www.parliament.lk/chief-government-whips.