ECONOMYNEXT – The main Tamil political party on Wednesday paid tribute to the Sinhala nationalist “Pivithuru Hetak” of Udaya Gammanpila for recognizing the “sovereignty” of provincial councils, while challenging the 20th amendment to the constitution.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran told parliament that Gammanpila had canvassed for the sovereignty of provincial councils while objecting to the 20th amendment which the Court held required a referendum if it was to be enacted.
While members of the Joint Opposition which supports former president Mahinda Rajapaksa crowded the well of the house in a bid to scuttle an amendment to the provincial councils election act, Sumanthiran thanked fellow parliamentarian Gammanpila for his court action.
"He (Gammanpila) canvassed that the Provincial Councils exercise the sovereignty of the people,” Sumanthiran said adding that the Sinhala nationalist MP had recognized the “sovereignty” of the councils established in line with the 13th amendment to the constitution.
There was no immediate comment from Gammanpila. However, his party is opposed to greater devolution of powers to provincial councils.
Deputy Minister of Policy Planning Harsha de Silva objected to Sumanthiran saying that the provincial councils enjoyed sovereignty, but the Tamil lawmaker said he was merely recording his appreciation of the stance taken by Gammanpila in courts.
Wednesday’s parliamentary proceedings were held up for nearly an hour as Joint Opposition MPs protested against amendments to the provincial councils act saying they had not been given sufficient notice to study the bill.
However, the Speaker as well as Sumanthiran noted that amendments could be introduced as long as they were tabled before noon. Besides, the bill was identical to the local council election amendment that called for greater participation of women in council election.
The PC election amendment bill seeks to ensure that at least 50 percent of names on the nomination list are women. Sumanthiran called the bill one of the most progressive.
"Women account for 52 percent of the population and 51 percent of the electors and this bill will ensure much greater number of women actually have seats in the councils,” he added. He saw no reason why any party should oppose such a progressive bill.
TNA’s critique of the 20th amendment judgement
Sumanthiran noted that the Supreme Court’s decision on the 20t amendment did not give reasons as required by the Article 123 of the constitution. Parliament was only told that it was divided decision and the House as well as the country was unaware how the judges made the determination and their reasons thereof.
He noted that in the case of the 13th amendment to the constitution, the nine-judge bench had given their reasons and they had enriched jurisprudence of the country.
The three-judge bench which ruled on the 20th amendment was haded by chief justice Priyasath Dep. The others on the bench were justices Anil Goonaratne and Vijith Malalgoda. (COLOMBO, Sept 20, 2017)