By Saman Indrajith
The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed in Parliament yesterday with a two thirds majority. The final vote on the bill received 174 votes in favour and none against.At the second reading stage vote, the Bill received 179 votes in favour and one vote against. Colombo District SLPP MP Rear Admiral (Retd)Sarath Weerasekera was the only MP who voted against the Bill.At the third reading vote MP Weerasekera abstained from voting.
Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa and former Minister Namal Rajapaksa were among those who voted for the Bill.The vote originally scheduled to be taken at 5.30 pm yesterday was postponed until 6.15 pm as the debate dragged on. The Bill was debated on Thursday and Friday and over 50 MPs took part in it.
As per the 22nd Amendment, dual citizens are disqualified from contesting elections.Justice, Prisons Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe presented the Bill entitled, ‘Twenty Second Amendment to the Constitution’ to amend the Constitution on Aug 10.
The Supreme Court cleared the Bill on 06 Sept., ruling that it could be adopted with a two-thirds majority in Parliament and some clauses required a national referendum. On the same day, announcing the Supreme Court decision, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene said the Bill could be adopted with a two-thirds majority in Parliament, and a nationwide referendum on clauses 2 and 3 that were inconsistent with the Constitution.
The Supreme Court recommended changes to help Parliament pass the Bill with only a special majority. The bill aims to restore independent commissions and curb some of the powers of the President.Interested parties were given time to petition the Supreme Court. There were 10 such petitions filed.
Participating in the debate yesterday Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said that the youth and protesters who had staged ‘Aragalaya’ deserved the credit and recognition for the enactment of the 22nd Amendment. Premadasa said the SJB would support the 22nd amendment, not because it offered a solution as such to the current crisis but because it was an improvement on the 20th amendment.