20A to Parliament today with Government MPs’ backing

20th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday won unanimous backing for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution from both Cabinet as well as the Government Parliamentary Group, hours before the Bill is presented to the House today.

President Rajapaksa held a special Cabinet meeting last morning and met with the Parliamentary Group in the evening to allay any concerns that Government members may have regarding the Bill, emphasising that 20A is an interim measure until a new Constitution is introduced.

He told the Government Group that amendments to the Bill can be made at the Committee Stage before it is put to a final vote in the House. Recommendations of the Committee appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to study 20A will also be considered, the President told the MPs.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry will present the 20th Amendment to the Constitution Bill to Parliament this morning, the first Bill to be tabled in Parliament by the new Government.

The Bill, which was published in the Government Gazette on 2 September, has been included in the Order Paper of Parliament for today.

Parliament officials said that within a week of the Bill being tabled to the House, the Constitution provides for interested parties to invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to determine whether the Bill or any of its provisions are inconsistent with the Constitution.

If the Bill is not challenged in the Supreme Court, it can be taken up for debate after seven days. If challenged, the SC has to deliver its determination within 21 days from the date of the petitions. Parliament is not entitled to take any action on this Amendment Bill during that period.

Government sources said the Bill is likely to be taken up for debate in mid-October, ahead of the November Budget.

The 20th Amendment will replace the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which was enacted in May 2015, and will restore the powers of the Executive which were scaled down by 19A.

A few features, such as the two-term limit on the presidency, and the five-year term limit on both the President and Parliament, will also be retained.

The Bill requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament, including those who are not present, to get approval.

(Source: Daily FT – By Chandani Kirinde)