CBSL bill passed with amendments

Friday, 21 July 2023 00:40 –      – 98

 


 

  • State Minister Shehan Semasinghe insinuates that some MPs were attempting to obstruct bill by asking for more time 
  • Opposition leader questions futility of bill if Govt. continues to interfere in CBSL decisions in future
  • 133 Govt. and opposition MPs fail to attend 2nd vote 
  • No quorum bell rung twice
  • MP Sarath Weerasekara says absence of legislators during a vote sets a bad precedence

The parliament passed the Central Bank Bill yesterday fulfilling one of the objectives stipulated in the agreement made with the International Monetary Fund.

Initially, the opposition during the proceedings requested the vote to be postponed to another date allowing them to better scrutinise the draft bill. In response, Finance State Minister  Shehan Semasinghe pointed out that some MPs had already submitted proposed amendments to the bill, questioning why others were not able to do the same. He raised doubts about their claims of not having sufficient time to review the document, implying that adequate time had been provided for all MPs to familiarise themselves with the bill and propose any necessary changes. “As a Government, we do not agree to this,” he said.

He insinuated that some MPs might be deliberately trying to obstruct or undermine the bill by making such claims, rather than genuinely seeking to contribute to the legislative process through constructive amendments.

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa raised concerns about the effectiveness of passing the bill during the parliamentary session. He noted the recent appointment of a select committee with the purpose of investigating former members of the Election Commission which may subject independent commissions to Government interference.

He expressed concern about the Government’s future conduct and questioned whether there is any guarantee that similar tactics might not be employed on the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), which is expected to gain independence through the passage of this act.

Joining the debate National People Party (NPP) leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake noted that a government with a people’s mandate should have the right to intervene in the Central Bank’s affairs since it directly impacts the country’s financial and economic policies. He highlighted that the proposed new Central Bank Bill aims to establish the Central Bank as an independent body, no longer under the purview of the Executive and the Legislature.

Dissanayake pointed out that the new legislation would grant the Central Bank the authority to seek theoretical advice from international organisations through agreements if needed. The MP expressed concerns during the debate that the new Central Bank Bill would grant the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the authority to intervene in the country’s economic and financial policies. He emphasised that this would take away the decision-making power from the government elected by the people, affecting critical aspects such as interest rates, exchange rates, and money supply, which are determined by the Central Bank.

The MP emphasised the importance of collaboration between the Central Bank and the Treasury to address the ongoing economic crisis and work towards stabilising the country’s financial situation.

Meanwhile, despite the Government’s emphasis on the bill’s importance leading up to the debate and vote, during the voting process following the second reading, a total of 113 legislators from both the ruling faction and the opposition were absent from the house.

The Second Reading of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Bill received majority approval in Parliament, with 66 votes in favour and 24 votes against it, resulting in a 42-vote majority.

But 133 MPs, including prominent figures such as Mahinda Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena, Sajith Premadasa, G. L. Peiris, Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thero, M. A. Sumanthiran, Gajendrankuram Ponnambalam, Champika Ranawaka, and Jeevan Thondaman, were notably absent from the chamber.

The speaker was also compelled to ring the bell and summon MPs due to the lack of quorum, twice during the debate. During the session, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Sarath Weerasekara addressed the house, expressing concern that the incident of 113 legislators being absent during the vote set a bad precedent in Parliament. The absence of MPs was also criticised by MP Gevindu Kumaratunga.

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