Opposition resists bid to rush RI Bill through Parliament – GL Legislative wrangle over 19A
Posted on April 26th, 2015

By Shamindra Ferdinando  Courtesy Island

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The proposed 19 Amendment to the Constitution is facing a fresh hurdle with a section of the Opposition strongly objecting to the ‘Right to Information Bill’ which is part of the Amendment being presented as an urgent bill.

UPFA parliamentarian Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday accused the government of acting contrary to its much touted public pronouncements as regards right to information. He told The Island in the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena handing over copies of the 19 Amendment to the Constitution to prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters Sunday morning.

President Maithripala Sirisena late last week referred the ‘Right to Information Bill’ to the Supreme Court for a determination. The Court will consider the Bill on April 28, 2015 and convey its finding to the President.

The bench will comprise Chief Justice K. Sripavan, Justice Rohini Marasinghe and Justice Priyantha Jayewardena.

Prof. Peiris said that in case of an urgent bill the Supreme Court would have to announce its decision within 24 hours, whereas the proper procedure allowed the apex body to make its determination in three weeks.The controversial move should be examined against the backdrop of the Right to Information Bill being part of the proposed 19 Amendment to the Constitution now scheduled to be debated today and tomorrow. Prof. Peiris said: “Obviously, the government intends to secure the Supreme Court determination before the parliament vote on the 19 Amendment tomorrow night. When right to information is recognised as a fundamental right in the proposed 19 Amendment, there cannot be any justification in rushing through the Right to Information Bill ahead of the Committee Stage of the 19 Amendment.”

Responding to a question Prof. Peiris asserted that the Supreme Court should never have been tasked to decide within 24 hours whether provisions in the ‘Right to Information Bill’ were consistent with the Constitution or required a referendum.

The former External Affairs Minister pointed out the absurdity in the government presenting an urgent bill when the 19 Amendment was meant to abolish the provision for such procedures. MP Peiris said that the government couldn’t resort to measures in contravention of the Supreme Court ruling on the 19 Amendment. The Supreme Court in no uncertain terms had directed that certain provisions in the 19 Amendment required a referendum; therefore the government shouldn’t manipulate the process to transform the proposed Amendment.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also called for an end to the practice of presenting urgent bills, Prof. Peiris said. The SLFP would strongly oppose any move to expand the 19 Amendment in contravention of the Supreme Court ruling, Prof. Peiris said. Asked whether the SLFP had received the backing of other political parties, Prof. Peiris emphasised that those pushing for the 19 Amendment should advise the UNP not to undermine the process by resorting to changes.

Prof. Peiris reiterated that the government should accommodate changes the SLFP had made to the latest draft of the 19 Amendment. The former law professor said that consultations among political parties were continuing in a bid to reach agreement before twice postponed debate on 19 Amendment on Monday.

One Response to “Opposition resists bid to rush RI Bill through Parliament – GL Legislative wrangle over 19A”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Why the unholy hurry by the present President re the 19-A ? And contravening the Constitution too !

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