Right of reply: National Government: Committee Stage Amendments to 19th A

15 February 2019 02:21 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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he following is a reply penned by eminent Lawyer President’s Counsel Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne to the article titled ‘The ‘Honorable’ Speaker and the Spirit of Democracy’and penned by Malinda Seneviratne which appeared in the Daily Mirror of February 7, 2019.
Clause 46 (1) of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution Bill presented to the previous Parliament provided that the total number of Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers shall not exceed 30 and the total number of non-Cabinet and Deputy Ministers shall not exceed 40.
Clause 46 (3) of the Bill was a provision that would apply to the next, that is the current, Parliament only: “If at the conclusion of the General Election held immediately after the coming into force of this Article, the recognised political party or the independent group obtaining the highest and the recognised political party or the independent group obtaining the second highest number of seats in Parliament agrees to form a Government of national unity, then, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1), the number of Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the number of Ministers outside of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Deputy Ministers, may be increased up to forty-five and fifty-five, respectively, if Parliament agrees to such increase, within two weeks of the first sitting of such Parliament.”

 

"There was a robust debate on the clause as a reader of Hansard will observe"

"The amendments were not passed when most MPs were half-asleep"


If Clause 46 (3) became law without amendment, the resulting position would be that the total number of Ministers shall not exceed 30 and the total number of non-Cabinet and Deputy Ministers shall not exceed 40. An exception could be made during the next, that is the current, Parliament only but again only if the two largest parties formed a Government of national unity. The increase in the numbers respectively to 45 and 55 had to be done within two weeks of the first sitting of the current Parliament.


On 28 April 2015, during the Committee Stage, the Opposition which initially objected to any increase in numbers later agreed to such a provision but demanded that the provision be made applicable to all future Parliaments and that a definition of a “Government of national unity” be included. The Government agreed to this. Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe proposed that a “Government of national unity” be defined as a Government formed by the parties which win the highest number and the second highest number of seats in Parliament. Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena objected to a Government of national unity being restricted to one formed with the second largest party. He demanded that a National Government should be one formed by the largest party with other parties and not necessarily with the second largest party (see Hansard of 28 April 2015, columns 919 to 940).

 

"If Clause 46 (3) became law without amendment, the resulting position would be that the total number of Ministers shall not exceed 30 and the total number of non-Cabinet and Deputy Ministers shall not exceed 40"


The following definition of a National Government was accordingly agreed to: “…. National Government means, a Government formed by the recognized political party or the independent group which obtains the highest number of seats in Parliament together with the other recognized political parties or the independent groups.”
Thus, the amendments were not passed when most MPs were half-asleep as Malinda Seneviratne contends in the Daily Mirror of 07 February 2019. On the other hand, there was a robust debate on the clause as a reader of Hansard 
will observe.


If clause 46 (3) had not been amended at the request of the Opposition, an increase would be possible only during the current Parliament. In the current Parliament too, a Government of national unity would only be a Government formed by both the United National Party and the United People’s Freedom Party participating. With the exit of the UPFA last year, the number of Cabinet Ministers would have been restricted to 30 and the total number of non-Cabinet and Deputy Ministers restricted to 40.

Jayampathy Wickramaratne

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  • Kingsley Wijesinhe Friday, 15 February 2019 07:37 PM

    Malinda Seneviratne must be using the laptop which was given to him by Mahinda Rajapakse, to write such nonsense.


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