SC determination on ‘Central Bank of Sri Lanka’ Bill:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Opposition lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (06) has asked whether Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Parliament sought to mislead members of the House with regards to the Supreme Court determination on the ‘Central Bank of Sri Lanka’ Bill.
Addressing the media on behalf of the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya at the Communist Party Office, leader of Yuthukama civil society group alleged that the declaration made by Speaker Abeywardena on April 04 was contrary to the SC determination.
The SC bench consisted of Justices Priyantha Jayawardena, PC, Kumudini Wickremasinghe and Arjuna Obeysekere. Petitioners were Anil S. Amarasekara (represented by Counsel Manohara de Silva with Haripriya Kumarage), Jehan Hameed (Canishka Witharana with Sawani Rajakaruna), Anura Darshana Perera Abeysekera (Canishka Witharana with Sawani Rajakaruna), MP Udaya Prabath Gammanpila (Counsel Manohara de Silva with
Haripriya Kumarage), Dr. Gunadasa Aarasekera ((Counsel Manohara de Silva with Haripriya Kumarage), Ven. Athureliye Rathana thera (Counsel didn’t make representations in court), former MP Wasantha Samarasinghe (Chamara Nanayakkarawasam with Dimuthu Fernando and Patali Abeyarathna)
Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that he was in Parliament when the Speaker declared that the Bill could be passed by a simple majority subject to amendments agreed during the proceedings. But what the Speaker conveniently failed to disclose was that the SC determined that out of 134 clauses in the ‘Central Bank of Sri Lanka’ Bill 46 required either to be passed by a 2/3 majority and 2/3 majority plus a referendum.
The petitioners have sought SC determination in terms of Article 121(1) of the Constitution.The first time entrant to Parliament, Cumaratunga said that all those involved in preparing this particular Bill and Speaker Abeywardena, who informed Parliament of the determination, certainly owed an explanation, MP Cumaratunga said.
The outspoken MP said that usually all members of parliament were provided with copies of SC determination as the Speaker read out the prepared statement. However, in this instance, copies of the SC determination weren’t made available and when he inquired from relevant authorities later, Parliament admitted the blunder.
MP Cumaratunga asked whether it was genuine mistake or a deliberate attempt to suppress the truth. The issue at hand should be examined against the backdrop of the Business Committee of the Parliament deciding to restrict April parliamentary sittings for just one day, he said.
Commenting on the remedial measures proposed by an Additional Solicitor General on behalf of Attorney General’s Department in response to the SC determination that nearly one third of the clause required to be approved by 2/3 majority and 2/3 plus referendum, MP Cumaratunga said that the SC received an assurance from the Attorney General that necessary amendments would be moved at the Committee stage.
Recalling how the UNP and its allies manipulated a particular Bill to postpone Local Government polls in 2017, MP Cumaratunga declared his concern over the latest developments.The bottom line is that the current dispensation couldn’t prepare a proper Bill and the fact 46 out of 134 clauses contravened the country’s Supreme Law meant that either they didn’t know what they were doing or it was deliberate, MP Cumaratunga said.
The MP demanded to know who took responsibility for the particular Bill. “We would like to know who represented the Central Bank, the AG and Finance Ministry in this process,” lawmaker Cumaratunga said, urging the government to inquire into the matter.
The ongoing project meant to thwart political interference could have catastrophic consequences, MP Cumaraunga said. Referring to the move to cease Finance Secretary being a member of the Monetary Board, MP Cumaratunga said that the SC determined that a big chunk of its provisions required 2/3 parliamentary approval and 2/3 approval plus endorsement at a referendum.
MP Cumaratunga also questioned President Ranil Wickremesinghe continuing to hold finance portfolio over half a year after he was elected by parliament to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term. Having repeatedly assured of his intention to empower parliament at the time he served as Premier (May 2022 to July, 2022), the UNP leader continued to serve as the finance minister while being the executive, Yuthukama chief said.
As a result of parliament putting off sittings to next month, the Opposition didn’t have an opportunity to take up the issue at the appropriate forum, MP Cumaratunga said.Responding to The Island queries, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the developing crisis had taken a new turn with the exposure of the government trying to manipulate even the SC determination.