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JJB MP questions voters’ responsibility in deterioration of parliamentary system



…the Executive bane of the country

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB) lawmaker Dr. Harini Amarasuriya says the Parliament has to be reformed. The Parliament is necessary and the urgent need is to make it stronger, the civil society activist asserts.

Dr. Amarasuriya said so in response to The Island query how she felt about the failure on the part of the Parliament to guarantee financial discipline, as a first time entrant into parliamentary politics and a member of the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA).

Dr. Amarasuriya recently chaired COPA proceedings temporarily in the absence of its Chairman Prof. Tissa Vitharana.

Whatever the inadequacies, the country couldn’t do away with the Parliamentary system, Dr. Amarasuriya said, underscoring the need to reform the Parliament with a view to meeting the aspirations of the people.

The JVP contested the last general election in August 2000 under JJB symbol. The JJB secured three seats, including one National List seat. The JVP deviated from the controversial practice of appointing wholesale its defeated candidates through the National List, by accommodating Dr. Amarasuriya on the single NL seat it won.

When The Island sought Dr. Amarasuriya views on the bleak picture depicted by statements issued as regards proceedings of three watchdog committees, namely COPA, COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) and PFC (Public Finance Committee), the academic said the electorate couldn’t under any circumstance absolve themselves of the responsibility for the current turmoil caused by those who exercised political power.

Was it fair to parliament when the electorate repeatedly elected the same lot? Dr. Amarasuriya asked. Those who exercised their franchise to elect questionable members should accept the consequences, too, the lawmaker said, pointing out the responsibility on the part of the print and electronic media to educate the public.

When The Island pointed out that the electorate first picked a political party before choosing candidates, Dr. Amarasuriya reiterated the fact that voters should accept the responsibility for their choices.

Of the 225-member Parliament, 196 are elected whereas 29 entered on the National Lists of various parties. Of the 29 NL members in the current parliament, the ruling SLPP  and the SJB won 17 and 07, respectively, and the remaining six were shared one each by the ITAK, JJB, AITC (Ahila Illankai Thamil Congress), UNP and OPPP( Our Power of People Party).

Dr. Amarasuriya pointed out the absurdity in those complaining about successive governments they themselves voted in. She emphasized that her stand as regards the issue at hand applied for those who raised the issue on behalf of the media. The JJB lawmaker asserted that the Parliament would have been in a much better position to address the grievances of the public if the electorate voted prudently.

MP Amarasuriya warned of dire consequences in depicting the Parliament as a useless and failed institution at a time when efforts were being made to weaken the parliamentary democracy.

In addition to the electorate irresponsibly voting for the same lot over and over again, the weakening of the Parliament by way of such despicable Amendments as the 20th, too, contributed to the overall deterioration of the systems in place.

The SLPP enacted the 20th Amendment last October at the expense of the 19th brought in early 2015 with over 200 lawmakers voting for it, MP Amarasuriya said. The 20th received a two-thirds majority with over a half a dozen Opposition MPs voting with the SLPP. All JJB lawmakers voted against the 20th Amendment which JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake called a dictatorial project.

MP Amarasuriya said that the electorate should take their responsibilities seriously. They should recognize the danger in repeatedly empowering the same political parties and their representatives. The Island pointed out the people today blamed the executive, legislature and the judiciary for the current state of affairs. The Island also raised the confusion caused by those who represented the parliament as accusations and counter-accusations as regards negligence and the responsibility pertaining to the Easter Sunday attacks and the father of two Easter Sunday suicide cadres ending up in the JVP National List for the 2015 general elections. And after having got elected many more members, the JVP shamelessly cavorted with the UNP in abusing political opponents using the law enforcers and particularly the police for the purpose even after two bond robberies staged in broad daylight by the yahapalana government.

 Dr. Amarasuriya emphasized the need to strengthen the parliament and stop efforts to dilute the parliamentary powers for the benefit of the executive. The MP claimed that the executive presidency was the bane of the democracy. Reforming the parliament would be the remedial measure, the country needed now, the MP said.

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Parliament prorogued



by Saman Indrajith

Parliament has been prorogued with effect from midnight yesterday (27) by President Ranil Wickremeisnghe under Article 70 of the Constitution. The Department of Government Printing issued the Gazette notification annoucing the presidential order yesterday evening.The new Parliament session is scheduled to commence on Feb. 08.

A prorogation, which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation, provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament, under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership, even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament.The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House, and all proceedings, pending at the time, are quashed, except impeachments.

A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session, after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, and have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session, all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament, need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.

At the end of a prorogation, a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered, under the Constitution, to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.

The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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LG elections may turn violent – CPA




Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has warned that the March 9 LG polls (if held) may turn violent as political parties are fighting for their survival as the results of the election may be considered as a referendum. He said it was doubtful whether the election would be held.

Dr. Saravanamuttu sounded this warning at the conference on Campaign Finance Regulations, convened by the CMEV, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), which was held last Thursday (26). He recalled that once when he asked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about campaign and party finances, the latter’s reply had been as follows: “I am not going to tell you the whole story, I cannot tell you the whole story and I will not tell you the whole story”

The Campaign Finance Regulation Act became law last Tuesday (24) and Dr. Saravanamuttu pointed out that the former President’s quip highlighted the challenges of collecting information on exactly how much is actually being used. “It is important that the public should know, whether it be cash or kind, from where the money comes from. And the information be made available to the public.”

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President: Cabinet has agreed to implement 13A fully



President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, informed the All Party Leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the Cabinet was agreeable to fully implementing the 13th Amendment.Issuing a statement on Friday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the President is bound to implement the laws of the land and the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution.

“The 13th Amendment has been in existence for over 30 years. I must implement it. If anyone is opposed, they can bring in a constitutional amendment to change it, or abolish it,” he said.

The President said that the country has to decide whether to fully implement the 13th Amendment or abolish it. “We can’t decide to do neither. Any MP can bring a private members motion to abolish the 13A. What happens when most people don’t support the motion? We will have to fully implement it,” he said.

The President said that he is working, according to a Supreme Court decision, on 13A. “We have to look, especially at the decision given by Chief Justice Palinda Ranasinghe. We are still in the bounds of a unitary state. I am against a Federal state but I support the devolution of power to provinces. The provincial councils don’t even have the powers enjoyed by the City of London. So we can’t call this a federal state,” he said.

Wickremesinghe added that former President J.R. Jayawardane and his lawyers took great pains to prevent the 13A from leading to a federal state. He added that at the end of the war, against the LTTE, a large number of lands in the North and the East, that belonged to private owners, were under the control of the Army. However, most of it had been returned to the people, under presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

“Only about 3000 acres are under the security forces. The forces must be given the opportunity to release these lands, without hindering national security. The Land Commission, too, must be immediately established. The draft on that can be presented by March. The Commission will have nine members, from each province ,and 12 will be appointed by the President. The we can come up with a national land policy and the Commission can implement the land policy,” he said.

The President said that 30 percent of the land will be allocated for forests. Large swaths of forests, in the upcountry, and in the catchment areas, for rivers, have been destroyed.

“We must increase the forest cover and the Land Commission must be entrusted with this,” he said.

The President added that he will provide further information, on February 08, on how the amendment will be implemented. He urged political parties to submit their proposals by February 04, the Independence Day of the country.

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