No authority to accept or reject amendments to Online Safety Act: Speaker
Posted on February 6th, 2024

Courtesy The Daily Mirror

Colombo, Feb 06 (Daily Mirror) –  Speaker  Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana today said he has no authority to accept or reject any amendments from anyone including the Supreme Court to the Online Safety Act and that the sole authority of such exercise is vested with Parliament.

The Speaker was referring to remarks that have been made by opposition members including Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa, who had accused him of violating the Constitution in endosing the Online Safety Bill.  

After the said amendments were presented and considered at the committee stage the Online Safety Bill was duly passed in Parliament after the Third Reading, as is the process for any bill thus presented. At that time, the Attorney General also issued a certificate that these amendments are in accordance with the Constitution, as guided by the Supreme Court’s determination. In this whole process, the Speaker has no role or authority to propose, accept or reject any amendment/s and/or recommendation/s suggested by any party including the Supreme Court, where the sole authority of such exercise is vested with the house of Parliament, i.e. its Members, often with majority vote.,” he said in a statement.

Thus, the Speaker stated that the Online Safety Bill was passed by Parliament in accordance with the Supreme Court’s determination, as was confirmed by the Attorney General’s Department. Since the legislative process of Parliament takes place jointly with the Attorney General’s Department and the Legal Draftsman’s Department, there is no opportunity to act in a manner that is not in accordance with a Supreme Court determination regarding a Bill or in violation of the Constitution.

Though it is encouraging to see the improvement in conscience of some of the Members whose very conduct warranted the Attorney General’s Department to be present in the final committee stage to ensure compliance with Supreme Court determinations (since the Provincial Councils Elections Amendment Act of 2017), if the members concerned could specifically mention what recommendations were ignored, the respective authorities may be able to respond to such allegations, since the Speaker has no discretion on such matters as explained above. It’s regrettable that those who ought to know this process better are stating otherwise, and the insinuation that the Speaker can enact laws and make amendments to bills at his discretion is an insult to their own legal and constitutional knowledge,” he said.

Any Member of Parliament is welcome to come and peruse all the documents and the proceedings of the passing of the Online Safty ACT, No. 9 Of 2024, and consult the officials that have the knowledge of the subject to understand things better,” he added.  

He reminded all Members that discrediting Parliament or undermining its credibility will not do one better, as in a democracy, the parts are judged by the whole and not the other way around

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