The draft bill of the proposed new 21st Amendment to the Constitution will be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers on May 23; The draft was finalised by a committee headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

By “The Sunday Morning” Political Editor

The draft bill of the proposed new 21st Amendment to the Constitution is to be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers tomorrow (23), it is learnt.
The finalising of the draft bill was one of the first acts of new Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe last Friday (20) soon after his appointment to office.

“The 21st Amendment will be presented to Cabinet on Monday,” Rajapakshe told The Sunday Morning.

The final draft was finalised by a committee headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Ministers Rajapakshe and Nimal Siripala de Silva, the Attorney General, the Legal Draftsman, President’s Counsel Ronald Perera, and Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva.

A copy of the draft bill seen by The Sunday Morning showed that the new piece of legislation would not only revert to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that was introduced during the previous Yahapalana Government but also go beyond that with the introduction of several new features.

Among the new additions are the introduction of two new independent commissions – the Audit Services Commission and the Procurement Commission. The other is that the appointment of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) governor would be vested with the parliamentary Constitutional Council (CC).

Rajapakshe explained that the two new Commissions – Audit Services and Procurement – would address the issue of bribery, fraud, and corruption in the State sector, especially in procurement processes. The CBSL Governor’s appointment through the CC is expected to form accountability in the country’s main economic policy management institution.

While parliamentary powers will be consolidated, the re-formation of the CC will once again re-empower the independent commissions.
One of the contentious clauses in the controversial 20th Amendment, the clause enabling dual citizens to represent Parliament and hold public office, will also be repealed by the 21st Amendment on the path to return to the state of the 19th Amendment and beyond.

However, the removal of the dual citizenship clause will result in the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) facing a split on its support to the new 21st Amendment given that it will cut off the chance of the party’s National Organiser, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, of continuing in active politics further.

Nevertheless, upon inquiry, a senior SLPP source told The Sunday Morning that the party was yet to discuss in detail the proposed constitutional amendment and it would do so once the document was made public in order to make a final decision on the party’s stance.

Meanwhile, it is also learnt that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had requested his team of legal experts to formulate a separate piece of legislation in consultation with Opposition political parties to present another constitutional amendment on the abolition of the Executive Presidency.

Members of Parliament have also been requested last week by the Chief Government Whip’s Office to present their observations and proposals to the proposed 21st Amendment presented by MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara and the 22nd Amendment by Minister Rajapakshe (prior to his appointment as Justice Minister and finalising of the new 21st Amendment Bill). Both these bills were presented to Parliament as private member’s motions.

Courtesy: The Sunday Morning