Legitimacy of the Emergency
Thursday, 31 July 2008

The High Court has recently struck down two ordinances signed by the President on the contention that the Emergency Government "has no authority to enact any law which is not related to election and emergency issues". Lawyers are saying that other ordinances, if challenged before the High Court may also be cancelled or annulled in the same way and for the same reasons. That makes it extremely difficult for the Emergency Government to conduct its business because in the absence of a Parliament, Presidential ordinances are the only way in which laws can be promulgated to put into effect various measures and actions of a fully functioning government. Theoretically, it is the President who has declared the Emergency through an ordinance signed by him and ultimately it is the President who will be held answerable to the people through the courts and to the Parliament, as and when it is next constituted. The President therefore, has to exercise wisdom, circumspection and restraint in promulgating Emergency ordinances.  The main problem, however, is that the President has most unwisely promulgated a substantial body of some 80 or so ordinances, all of which will now come under legal and public scrutiny and the majority of them failing such scrutiny, might well be declared void and even illegal by the courts. Also, the next Parliament may not ratify many of these ordinances, in which case members of the Emergency Government and the President may be called upon to explain as to why they had exceeded their authorities, powers and competences as defined in the Constitution. Additionally, those adversely affected by the scrapped ordinances, will demand compensations from the State for having been unjustly, perhaps even illegally harassed. Legitimacy depends on three factors: Whether the government is constituted according to the provision of the Constitution of the polity Whether the government is constituted according to widely acceptable and credible processes, such as an election Whether the government has the consent or at least the acquiescence of a majority of the populace Considering these factors, it would appear that the Emergency Government is coming under increasing Legal, Procedural and Moral attack.

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