Sri Lanka’s Parliament approves 18th amendment with a majority of 144 votes, 161 vote in favor & 17 against and 46 boycotted the voting
By Santhush Fernando in Colombo
Colombo, 09 September, (Asiantribune.com): Sri Lanka’s House of Parliament approved the much-debated Eighteenth Amendment, with a majority of 144 votes, yesterday evening..
161 MPs voted for the Bill presented by the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA), while 17 voted against it.
Seventy nine year-old Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratna, tabling the Bill in Parliament this morning said that the UPFA anticipated a minimum of sixteen opposition parliamentarians to vote with the government.
“The 1978 Constitution was only suitable for former President J R Jayawardene’s needs and never suited the needs of the people of this country,” Jayarathne said in his speech.
“This amendment does not extend the incumbent President's tenure and the President is still required to be duly elected by the people. This has removed the ‘two-term’ barrier and has thus enhanced the supremacy of the people. All those who favor people’s supremacy should support this,” joining the debate, Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa said.
Altogether nine MPs from the main opposition – the United National Party (UNP), eight from Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and one from Tamil National Alliance (TNA), voted for the Bill.
During today's Parliamentary session, six UNP parliamentarians-Upeksha Swarnamali (Gampaha), N. Wijesingha (Kurunegala), Earl Gunasekara (Pollonnaruwa), Abdul Cader (Kandy), Lakshman Seneviratne (Badulla) and Manusha Nanayakkara (Galle) crossed over to the government. Previously, Abdul Cader (Kandy), Palani Digambaram (Nuwara Eliya) and Praba Ganasen (Colombo) had declared their support for UPFA’s bill. Ampara District TNA MP, P. Piyasena too pledged his support for the Bill during the heated debate.
Except the nine dissident UNP MPs who voted in favor of it, other UNP members boycotted the debate calling it a fraud and engaged in a protest led by opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, which was stopped by the Police at Bangala junction in Kotte, this evening.
With the 18th amendment being passed, the restriction of the two term ceiling on the executive presidency system is removed allowing an incumbent president to contest any number of times he desires. The amendment replaces the hitherto defunct Constitutional Council introduced under the Seventeenth Amendment (which was not fully implemented for the last four years) with a consultation process referred to as the “Parliament Council”, which however is not stated in the Bill. UPFA is also hopeful of reconstituting commissions within one month’s duration.
With its enactment, the President is to seek the observations of the Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition; two Members of Parliament nominated each by the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, when appointing Chairpersons or members of the Commissions listed in Schedule I and when appointing persons to offices listed in Schedule II.
The commissions listed are the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, National Police Commission, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption, Finance Commission and Delimitation Commission. (Under 17th Amendment Finance and Delimitation Commission were not under the purview of the Constitutional Council)
The public offices listed under Schedule II are the Chief Justice and the Judges of the Supreme Court, the President and the Judges of the Court of Appeal, Members of the Judicial Service Commission (other than the Chairman) and the Attorney- General, Auditor – General, Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman), and the Secretary - General of Parliament.
Meanwhile, pro and anti demonstrations were conducted by supporters of the government and opposition in most parts of Colombo city, causing heavy traffic jam along roads leading to Parliament.
- Asian Tribune -