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Parliamentary debate on draft of 22A scheduled for October

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The political party leaders have decided to debate the draft of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution on October 06 and 07, the Communications Department of Sri Lanka Parliament says.

The parliament will convene from October 03 to 07, as decided by the party leaders.

The constitutional amendment, which had been referred to as the 21st Amendment so far, will in fact be the 22nd Amendment, as another draft 21st Amendment has already been gazetted.

The 21st Amendment to the Constitution is the constitutional amendment presented to the parliament by the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) in April as a private Bill. It was later published in the government gazette and challenged in the Supreme Court.

Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, who was appointed the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs & Constitutional Reforms, later presented a government Bill to the Cabinet of Ministers in his ministerial capacity, which is referred to as the 22nd amendment.

The Supreme Court, delivering its determination, ruled that the 21st amendment put forward by the SJB cannot proceed further without a public referendum.

In such a backdrop, the Cabinet of Ministers gave the approval to publish the 22nd amendment presented by the Justice Minister in the government gazette.

Policy approval of the Cabinet of Ministers was given on June 20, 2022 for the preliminary draft for the 22nd amendment. The 22nd constitutional amendment bill was prepared by the legal Draftsman accordingly. The Attorney General had later informed that the bill is in accordance with the Constitution.

Consequently, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms, to publish the 22nd constitutional amendment Bill in the Government Gazette and thereafter present the same in Parliament for approval.

The constitutional amendment is expected to empower Parliament over the executive president and annul the 20A to the Constitution, which had given unfettered powers to President after abolishing the 19th Amendment.

Under the 22A, the President, the Cabinet of Ministers and the National Council will be held accountable to the parliament. Fifteen Committees and Oversight Committees are also accountable to parliament.

The 22nd constitutional amendment comprises features of both the 19th amendment introduced by the Yahapalana Government and the 20th amendment brought forth under the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

As per the draft Bill, a Constitutional Council will come into effect and it will consist of members including the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the Opposition Leader, a Member of Parliament appointed by the President, two members nominated by both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. The council will be chaired by the Speaker.

The Public Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Audit Service Commission, Human Rights Commission, Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, Finance Commission, Delimitation Commission and the National Procurement Commission shall be responsible and answerable to the parliament. However, Election Commission is not.

As per this amendment, no person shall be appointed by the President unless such appointment has been approved by the council upon a recommendation made to the council by the Head of State in instances of appointing the Chief Justice and the judges of the Supreme Court, the president and the judges of the Court of Appeal, the members of the Judicial Service Commission other than its chairman.

The same is applicable when appointing the Attorney General, the Auditor General, the Inspector-General of Police, the Central Bank Governor, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The 22nd constitutional amendment abolishes the ability of a dual citizen to be appointed as a Member of Parliament.

It also includes provisions of the 20th amendment that the number of Cabinet Ministers shall not exceed 30 and the number of ministers who are not members of the Cabinet and Deputy Ministers shall not exceed 40.

However, if a recognized political party or an independent group which obtains the highest number of seats in parliament forms a national government, the number of ministers in the Cabinet, the ministers who are not in the Cabinet and Deputy Ministers shall be determined by the parliament.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has determined that some provisions of the draft of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution are inconsistent with the Constitution. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has arrived at the conclusion that the draft constitutional amendment needs to be passed by a special majority and a referendum or the clauses in question should be amended. The draft of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was challenged in the Supreme Court in terms of Article 120(1) (1) of the Constitution.

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