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20A could rob citizens their right to be heard: Eran

ECONOMYNEXT – Problematic provisions in the proposed 20th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution could rob citizens of their right to question the constitutionality of laws enacted in parliament, opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Eran Wickremaratne said.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, the MP said under the amendment, the time period between the gazetting of a bill and its being placed on the order paper of parliament would be reduced from 14 days to seven.

Noting that in some democracies members of the public could question the validity of a new law even after enactment, Wickremaratne said in Sri Lanka citizens only have the opportunity to challenge a bill at its draft stage. The proposed 20th amendment, he said, seeks to deprive citizens of this one opportunity afforded to them by the constitution.

“The government is attempting to pass urgent bills off as being of national interest. The president would have the power to seek the opinion of the courts within 24 hours. The bill could be presented to parliament the very next day and passed the same evening,” he said.

The MP warned that these proposals, if enacted, could lead to a situation where the people might not even be privy to the contents of the bills being presented.

“The citizens have a right to be heard in the process of lawmaking. At present, the Supreme Court can allow a citizen to be heard if the courts deem it necessary. The 20th amendment will change this,” he said. (Colombo/Sep14/2020)

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