President arrives in Parliament mid-debate on 20A
October 22, 2020 06:08 pm
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has arrived in the Parliament while the debate on the draft bill of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution is in progress, Ada Derana correspondent said.
Members of Parliament commenced the two-day debate on the proposed bill last morning (21) and are proceeding with the debate from until 7.30 pm for the second consecutive day today.
The Committee Stage of the proposed 20th Amendment is expected to commence at 7.30 pm post the debate and the legislators will vote on the draft bill thereafter.
The draft bill of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution was tabled in Parliament on the 22nd of September after receiving the approval of Cabinet of Ministers.
Subsequently, 39 petitions in total were lodged against the draft bill, citing the Attorney General as the respondent.
The petitions were put forward by Election Commission member Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Youth Wing Chairman Mayantha Dissanayake and Attorney-at-Law P. Liyanaarachchi of the Sirilaka Janatha Peramuna, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), former Governor and Executive Director of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Ranjith Keerthi Tennakoon, human rights activist Abdul Zanoon and many others.
The Supreme Court then concluded the consideration of petitions filed challenging the draft bill on October 05. Five days later, its secret decision on the constitutionality of the draft bill of was referred to the Speaker of Parliament. The decision was then presented to the House on October 20.
As per the decision of the Supreme Court, the draft bill is in accordance with Article 82 (1) of the Constitution and that it has to be approved with a special majority according to Article 82 (5) of the Constitution.
The draft bill must be approved by the People at a public referendum as per Article 83 of the Constitution, since Articles 3, 5, 14, and 22 of the Bill, as they stand, are not in accordance with Article 3 of the Constitution which is to be read with the Article 4 of the Constitution.
However, the court has concluded that the non-compliance of Articles 3 and 14 can be removed in accordance with the proposed Committee Amendments and the non-compliance of Article 5 may be removed by making amendments as provided in the decision of the Supreme Court.
Opening the two-day debate yesterday, Minister of Justice Ali Sabry stated that the government has made amendments to the draft bill considering the public opinion.
He also noted that it will be amended to limit the Cabinet of Ministers to 30 portfolios with another 40 non-Cabinet portfolios, and the Emergency Bills will be limited to cases of national disaster or events affecting national security, among other amendments.
Despite having being given the go-ahead from the Supreme Court, the government has decided to amend the draft in consideration of the concerns raised by the public on the draft constitutional amendment, he said.
Accordingly, the draft will be amended to limit the Cabinet of Ministers to 30 portfolios with another 40 non-Cabinet portfolios, and the Emergency Bills will be limited to cases of national disaster or events affecting national security, among other amendments, Sabry said.
He further said that the 2 Articles determined inconsistent with the Constitution will also be amended as per the order of the Supreme Court.
Delivering his speech to the House, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had said the 20th Amendment to the Constitution is brought into force to remove the 19th Amendment which turned the country into anarchy.