By Yohan Perera and Ajith Siriwardana
TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran yesterday submitted a draft Bill using his privilege to present a Private Members Bill to provide for the declaration of a state of public health emergency and for the adoption of special measures in the interests of public health.
The draft Bill contains a provision allowing parliament to declare public health emergency state through a resolution passed by two-thirds of members’ vote upon the written advice from the Director General of Health Services. The Bill envisages bringing in laws enabling remote convening of parliament, cabinet meetings, court sessions etc through the use of contemporaneous or near contemporaneous audio-visual linkage during the period of a public health emergency. “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other law, during the period of a public health emergency, and to the extent that is reasonable, any person may access any public service, including the issuance or renewal of identity documentation, the issuance of birth, death or marriage certificates, the issuance of certificates of absence, and the issuance or renewal of licences, through remote electronic means, whereby the person is not required to be physically present for the purpose of receiving such service,” the draft said.
The Bill also proposes for the setting up of a Public Health Emergency Council consisting of the President, Prime Minister, leader of the opposition, Ministers of Health, Social Welfare, Environment, Home Affairs, Science and Technology, Defence, Police, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Education, Director General of Health Services etc for the effective use of resources for the detection and containment of the contagious diseases. The council would have the powers of adopting measures necessary to counter the diseases including enhancement of public awareness and uninterrupted supply of goods and services, says the draft bill.