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22 A: Amendments accepted at ‘committee stage’ should be subjected to SC approval

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Nalin de Silva highlights major constitutional flaw

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Myanmar, Prof. Nalin de Silva, has said that whatever amendments introduced to a particular Bill at the committee stage should be definitely subjected to the approval by the Supreme Court.

The one-time Mathematics Don has stressed that the Speaker shouldn’t endorse the amended Bill until the Parliament obtained the Supreme Court’s consent.

Prof. De Silva said so commenting on a simmering controversy over Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, manipulating the committee stage process to introduce new amendments which may not be in line with the Supreme Court ruling on the original Bill on the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Prof. de Silva dealt with the issue at hand as sections of the ruling SLPP, including dissidents, warned against any moves to dilute executive powers to enable the full operationalisation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The outspoken retired academic has urged the Parliament to introduce an amendment to prevent the Speaker from endorsing an amended Bill, till the Supreme Court approves it.

Prof de Silva last served as Sri Lanka’s top envoy in Myanmar, from 2020 to 2021.

The activist described the absence of provision for the Supreme Court to examine a Bill, following the committee stage, as a major flaw in the Constitution. This loophole should be closed, Prof de Silva said, recalling how successive governments had exploited the committee stage of controversial Bills to pursue their agendas. Prof de Silva cited the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution as a case in point.

Prof de Silva stressed that the Justice Minister’s approval of amendments were certainly not sufficient. Therefore, Supreme Court approval should be a prerequisite for the Speaker’s endorsement, he said.

Having pointed out that the 22nd Amendment had been presented to the public, through Gazette notification, Prof de Silva emphasized that the executive, the legislature and the judiciary were involved in the overall process.

Prof de Silva said that all amendments proposed to the 22 A that would be taken up for vote tomorrow (07) should be defeated. In fact, future attempts to introduce amendments at committee stage of a particular Bill, too, should be thwarted as the Speaker and the Justice Minister whichever party/alliance in power didn’t have the competence to examine the constitutionality of the proposals, Prof de Silva said.

The former diplomat said that the move to dilute executive powers should be examined against the backdrop of President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s failure to secure the required international financial assistance. Declaring that the incumbent government couldn’t obtain at least loans from Western powers let alone grants, Prof de Silva questioned the status of Sri Lanka’s much-touted Staff-Level Agreement with the International Monetary Fund now being contradicted by the government.

Prof de Silva was commenting on Premier Dinesh Gunawardena’s declaration in Parliament on Tuesday (04) that there was only a draft agreement and they were yet to finalize the Staff-Level Agreement with the IMF.

Prof de Silva said that before the finalization of the agreement, the draft agreement should be submitted to the Parliament.

The retired academic said that the government owed an explanation regarding the efforts to introduce constitutional amendments at a time political parties, represented in Parliament, should be concentrating on a tangible economic recovery plan. Prof de Silva asked whether they genuinely expected the introduction of 22 A to the Constitution would really enhance political stability.

Prof de Silva expressed serious concerns about how the powers that be could propose certain amendments at the committee stage of the 22 A with a view to appeasing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as well as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), a constituent party of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). The retired University Don pointed out the possibility in the government proposing consultations between the appointing authority (the President) and the Chief Ministers in respect of the appointment of Governors of the Provinces. In terms of the Constitution now, the appointment of Governors is the prerogative of the President.

Prof de Silva said that the President couldn’t dilute executive powers enshrined in the Constitution.



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Easter Sunday terror attack suspect hacked to death

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By Norman Palihawadane

A 38-year-old Easter Sunday terror attack suspect was hacked to death yesterday morning (28) in Mattakkuliya.

The victim, Mohamed Badurdeen Mohamed Harnas, was a resident of Safiya Avenue, Mattakkuliya, police said.

A suspect in the Easter Sunday terror attacks, he had been released on bail.

The suspect was rushed to the National Hospital, Colombo, after three individuals, who arrived in a car around 10. 00 am, attacked him.

Two persons attacked the man while the other was keeping the car engine running, according to eyewitnesses. The attackers thereafter fled in the same car.

Harnas was pronounced dead on admission to hospital.

Further investigations in this regard are currently underway.

The victims family members said that Harnas had been taken into custody, following the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, but later released as there was no evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities.

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Rail service between Mahawa and Jaffna to be suspended for five months

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Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday that the railway services between Mahawa and Jaffna will be suspended for a period of five months in 2023.

The Minister said that operations will be suspended from January 15, 2023.

The Minister said it was to repair work on the railway line.

He said so in response to a question raised by Vanni District MP Selvam Adaikalanathan.

“We are focusing our attention on the request made by you. We have to halt railway operations between Mahawa and Jaffna for five months from January 2023. Train services have been continuously operating to Jaffna, but now we have faced a situation as we have not been able to carry out any repair work thus far,” the Minister said.

Assuring that this issue can be rectified in five months, Minister Gunawardane said that, thereafter, a good railway service can be provided for this route.

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Imthiaz: Youth have every right to be angry and rulers cannot escape responsibility

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Imthiaz Bakeer Markar

SJB MP Imthiaz Bakeer Markar says a ruler cannot hold on to power by imprisoning the country’s youth.

Participating in the debate on the 2023 Budget, Bakeer Markar said, “The current crisis has severely affected the country’s youth as proved by the ongoing brain drain. We must all understand this situation. The youth who are suffering due to these issues are now in anger. Their dreams have been destroyed due to the crisis. They have no hopes for the future and neither have they been offered any help or support to build their lives. Given the situation they have every right to be angry.”

“Labelling them as terrorists or issuing threats claiming that military or police will be deployed against them is not what must be done.

“It is a fallacy to think traditional politics or intimidation is a solution to these issues. One is mistaken if one believes they can hang on to power through the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act or a Rehabilitation Bill or even by locking up youth in torture chambers or in dark rooms. Traditional politics is dead. One cannot deal with today’s youth with an island mentality,” he said.

The MP said that youth with new thinking is coming into power the world over and have become forces of change in their countries.

“The world is calling for Martin Luthers and not Hitlers,” he said, adding that Sri Lanka must use the citizens’ struggle in a positive manner for its future journey.  “Our country’s youth became exemplary when they engaged in a peaceful struggle on the country’s streets for freedom, equality and life. Using their struggle as an example we should set our goals as a country higher and obtain the support of the youth to embark on this journey. This is what is accepted in the developed world today where they look at youth in a positive manner. It is understood that a speedier journey towards development can be achieved through this,” the MP said.

He said that oppression is not the answer. The country’s leadership must join hands with them to go forward.

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