14th November 2019, The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and its Executive Director, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu filed a fundamental rights application challenging the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to allow President Maithripala Sirisena the continuous use of the residence currently used by him, and to cover the costs associated with same. In their Petition, the Petitioners stated that the residence occupied by President Maithripala Sirisena on Mahagama Sekara Mawatha (also referred to by some as Paget Road) is of great financial value and is a valuable asset of the Country.
The benefits received by former President’s and their widows are regulated by the Presidents Entitlements Act, No. 4 of 1986. CPA stated that, the Supreme Court has previously recognised that the terms of the Presidents Entitlements Act, have to be strictly interpreted and applied. As such the CPA argued that, the allocation of a public asset of such financial value for the personal use of a former President who is no longer carrying out the functions of a Head of State is irrational, arbitrary and illegal, especially because the said residence was designed/constructed in a manner befitting a President / Head of State. CPA further argued it is wrong for the Cabinet of Ministers to decide on the benefits of a retiring President before s/he ceases to hold office.
Because of these reasons, CPA contended that the fundamental rights of the Petitioners’ and the fundamental rights of the citizens of Sri Lanka guaranteed under Article 12(1) [Right to Equality] of the Constitution have been violated by the above-mentioned decision made by the Cabinet of Ministers.
CPA recognises that a former President is entitled to certain benefits in terms of the Presidents Entitlements Act, and to security in view of security concerns. As such the Petitioners limited their challenge to only the decision to provide continued use of the Mahagama Sekara Mawatha residence and the costs associated with same.