Political reforms: Govt. to move 22A for debate this week

The Government is to proceed with the debate and vote on the proposed 22nd Amendment Bill in Parliament this week, despite doubts over securing the required two-thirds majority in the House for its passage, The Sunday Morning learns.

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told The Sunday Morning that the Cabinet of Ministers had last week decided to proceed with the 22nd Amendment Bill debate and vote in Parliament regardless of the objections raised by a group of ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs to the proposed piece of legislation. “The Cabinet decided to move ahead with the 22nd Amendment and go for a vote,” he said.

Accordingly, the 22nd Amendment Bill will be taken up for debate on Thursday (20) and for a vote on Friday (21).

When asked if the Government was confident of receiving the two-thirds majority in Parliament to pass the Bill, Rajapakshe noted that he was hopeful that the Members of Parliament (MPs) would support the first step of the political reforms programme. “If the MPs don’t vote in favour, the public will be able to see who is opposed to political reforms,” he added.

The Opposition political parties during the last parliamentary session had expressed concern over the possibility of moving ‘undemocratic’ amendments to the 22nd Amendment Bill during the committee stage of the debate when amendments are introduced to the Bill.

However, the Justice Minister observed that only the observations of the Supreme Court, as well as a few proposed by the Opposition, would be moved as amendments during committee stage.

However, a group of SLPP MPs, including the party’s General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, has stated publicly on several occasions that the SLPP could not support the Bill since some of its clauses were in violation of the party’s policies.

The SLPP group that is objecting to the 22nd Amendment has been identified in political circles as the pro-Basil Rajapaksa (BR) group. The group has called on the Government to remove the clause preventing dual citizens from holding public office and to extend the time for the dissolution of Parliament to four-and-a-half years. The Government, however, has objected to the two proposals by the pro-BR group.

The SLPP group, it is learnt, had informed the Government that they would move the two amendments sought by them at the committee stage of the Bill and would go for a vote if needed to get these included in the 22nd Amendment. However, the Government had informed the group that the amendment would require a two-thirds majority to be passed and not a simple majority of 113.

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