By Shamindra Ferdinando
SLPP MP Gevindu Cumaratunga, now functioning as an independent, yesterday (07), said that it would be the responsibility of Parliament to ensure that amendments, recommended by the judiciary to a Bill titled ‘Central Bank of Sri Lanka,’ were duly incorporated.
The National List MP said that the assurance given by Additional Solicitor General Viraj Dayaratne, PC, to the Supreme Court, in concurrence with Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, as regards incorporation of appropriate amendments.
Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya, near Thunmulla, the leader of Yuthukama civil society group asked whether the debate, following the second reading of the Bill, incorporation of relevant amendments, and the vote could take place on May 11, as announced by Parliament.
Referring to the SC ruling on the relevant Bill, MP Cumaratunga said that of the 134 clauses therein, the bench, consisting of Priyantha Jayawardena, PC, Kumudini Wickremasinghe and Arjuna Obeysekere, declared 46 clauses inconsistent with the Constitution. The Yuthukama leader represents the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya.
MP Cumaratunga expressed serious concern over the failure on the part of Parliament to discuss the whole gamut of issues relating to the Bill and reach consensus on the proposed amendments. Such a consensus should be in place ahead of the proposed second reading and the subsequent vote to ensure that the powers that be didn’t manipulate the process to enact an Act, contrary to the Constitution.
“Once approved no one could do anything about it,” MP Cumaratunga said, adding that a Bill, being fully consistent with the Constitution, does not necessarily mean it safeguarded public interests.MP Cumaratunga alleged that at the onset, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had misinterpreted the SC ruling and
the Parliament conveniently failed to provide members a copy of the SC ruling, the day the Speaker made the announcement. “Although we were told the ruling would be included in the Hansard, the 54-page ruling had been printed on eight pages and was not clear,” MP Cumaratunga said.
The Island asked MP Cumaratunga whether he opposed the Central Bank being freed from political interference as those who backed the initiative repeatedly assured that was the primary objective of the Bill. MP Cumaratunga said President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, proposed names to the Monetary Board and approved them as the President. How that could achieve much promised independence of the Central Bank, the MP said, pointing out the absence of provision in case the Constitutional Council didn’t accept the names submitted by the President. MP Cumaratunga asked whether the much-touted independence could be achieved by constitutionally removing the Secretary to the Finance Ministry from the Monetary Board. The MP pointed out that having promised to empower Parliament, President Wickremesinghe continued to hold a vital finance portfolio, quite contrary to the assurances given during his tenure as PM, during May-July 2022.
Well informed sources told The Island that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was closely monitoring the developments pertaining to the new Act. Sources said that the IMF was keen to ensure that the Central Bank received the freedom to operate independently. Therefore, the enactment of the new Act, incorporating the promised amendments, was a must, sources said.
MP Cumaratunga further said that the Finance Committee meeting didn’t take up the Central Bank issue. Subsequently, the MPs were told the issues at hand would be discussed on Tuesday (09), MP Cumaratunga said, urging the government to put off the second reading to pave the way for preparation of a fresh Bill, taking into consideration all amendments promised during the SC hearing. Wouldn’t that be better than hastily approving a vital Bill, the MP asked.