SC deems SJB MP’s move unconstitutional

‘How Parliament violated Standing Orders and Constitution in gazetting twice rejected controversial Bill’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Federation of National Organisations (FNO) says the move to secure parliamentary approval for the controversial Bill titled ‘Human Rights Organisation (Incorporation) Act’ should be inquired into at the highest political level.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena and Justice Arjuna Obeyesekere has ruled that Clause 6 of the Bill is not consistent with Article 76(1) of the Constitution. The SC has also ruled that Clause 7 of the Bill is not consistent with Articles 3, 4 and 12(1) of the Constitution. Having said so, the SC declared that in terms of the Article 123(2) of the Constitution, the Bill should be passed by a special majority in line with paragraph (2) of Article 84 and endorsed at a Referendum.

Dr. Wasantha Bandara, Raja Goonerathne and Nuwan Ballantudawa moved the SC in terms of the Article 121 of the Constitution. In their petition, the Attorney General was named the respondent whereas Ms Kanishka de Silva Balapatabendi, SSC and Ms Indumini Randeny, SC appeared for the AG. Chamara Nanayakkarawasam, Dinesh De Silva and Dimuthu Fernando represented the petitioners.

Dr. Bandara yesterday (8) said that the FNO would be soon writing to Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Chief Sajith Premadasa, who is also the Opposition Leader, as the Bill in question had been submitted to Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill by its National List MP Tissa Attanayake.

Responding to queries raised by The Island, Dr. Bandara said that the FNO recognized the right of lawmakers to present Private Members’ Bills. “There cannot be any dispute over that privilege. We respect MP Attanayake’s right. However, we do not see any harm in seeking a clarification from the MP concerned and the party he is representing”.

Dr. Bandara said that the same Private Bill had been previously submitted by Hunais Farook (2013) and Ali Zahir Moulana (2015) on behalf of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) and the UNP, respectively. However, on both occasions, they had failed to proceed with the project though MP Attanayake, one-time General Secretary of the UNP brought it back, Dr. Bandara said.

Dr. Bandara said that the SC, in its ruling acknowledged the petitioners’ principle argument that the Bill had been gazetted on July 20, 2021 and placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on August 3, but without obtaining the Attorney General’s opinion. Therefore the procedure adopted by Parliament not only violated Standing Orders but Article 78 (2) of the Constitution as well, the SC noted on the basis of submissions made on behalf of the petitioners.

Dr. Bandara said that they moved the SC immediately after the first reading of the Bill. Responding to another query, Dr. Bandara said that the FNO would also write to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena in that regard as Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayake had adopted a strategy in violation of Standing Orders and the Constitution.

Dr. Bandara emphasised that lawmaker Attanayake’s move should be studied taking into consideration the continuing efforts to punish the war-winning Sri Lankan military and other security authorities in terms of Geneva Resolutions passed since Oct 1, 2015. Asked whether the FNO would take up the issue with the SLPP government, Dr. Bandara said that they backed the ruling party at both presidential and parliamentary polls in 2019 and 2020, respectively. One of the primary issues at the last national elections was Western and their allies interfering here, Dr. Bandara said, adding that their agenda seemed obviously on track.

The FNO wouldn’t have to move SC if Parliament sought the opinion of the AG, Dr. Bandara said. The move to establish what Dr. Bandara called an organisation parallel to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka portends a grave danger, the nationalist civil society activist said.

The torpedoed Bill comprised 15 Clauses, Dr. Bandara said, urging the SJB to examine how one of its National List MPs got involved in the project against the country’s interest. Noting that political parties represented in Parliament had been largely silent on the issue at hand, Dr. Bandara questioned the rationale in pushing for the establishment of a new organisation as already HRCSL was in place.

Dr. Bandara said that the government couldn’t be unaware that such Bills had been prepared by interested parties with the involvement of external players over a period of time. Actually, party leaders should take up the issue with the Speaker and the Secretary General of Parliament as the House violating Standing Orders and the Constitution couldn’t be accepted under any circumstances.

The Island

learns that the FNO had consulted the HRCSL before moving the SC.

Dr. Bandara said that in spite of various statements made by different government spokespersons and the much publicised declaration in March 2020 that Sri Lanka quit 2015 resolution, the country was still on the Geneva agenda. The government was yet to properly respond to the Geneva threat and remained utterly unfocussed much to the disappointment of the vast majority of people, he said.

The fact that Army Chief General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) remained blacklisted by the US since Feb 2020 should serve as a grim reminder to the challenge the country faced.

Thank you

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