20th Amendment to the Constitution passed with amendments
Posted on October 22nd, 2020

Courtesy Adaderana

The Third Reading of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution has been passed with amendment with a two-thirds majority.

A total of 156 voted in favour of the constitutional amendment while 65 MPs voted against.

The Second Reading of the 20th Amendment was also passed in Parliament with a two-thirds majority, this evening.

A total of 213 Member of Parliament were present during the Second Reading with 156 voting in favour of the constitutional amendment and 65 voting against it. 

SJB MPs Dayana Gamage, Ishaq Rahuman, M. Raheem, Ahamed Nasir, Mohomed Harris, Faisal Qasim, Aravind Kumar and M.S. Thowfeek have voted in favour of the draft bill in the second reading.

Former President and current SLPP parliamentarian Maithripala Sirisena was absent during the vote. 

The Second Reading vote was followed by the Committee Stage Discussions with the final vote taking place afterwards. 

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.

Committees were appointed by several parties including the Prime Minister, Samagi Jana Balawegaya, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, to study the proposed amendment.

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 Supreme Court stated that 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 had 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 constitutional amendment considering the concerns raised by the public, despite having being given the go-ahead from the Supreme Court

He 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.

He further said that the two articles determined inconsistent with the Constitution will also be amended as per the order of the Supreme Court.

However, more amendments to the current draft bill will be added during the Second Reading of the Bill, Sabry said.

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.

The government has also decided to add several amendments to the draft constitutional amendment during the committee stage in Parliament.

The Committee Stage of the proposed amendment commenced post the two-day debate which commenced last morning (21). The debate lasted until 7.30 pm for the second consecutive day today.

Following the Committee Stage, the legislators voted on the draft bill of the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

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