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I had intended to conclude this series with the previous article, but confusion in Parliament recently, with regard to the Local Authorities Election (Amendment) Bill, highlighted some problems that require resolution. The main problem that arose was the absence of a Tamil translation of amendments that were to be moved in the Committee stage of the bill, but there were other problems too, all of which can be dealt with easily if some conceptual clarity is brought to the legislative process.

For those who do not understand the process by which legislation is passed – and this includes many Parliamentarians – there are supposed to be three Readings of any Bill before it becomes law. The first is simply the notice to Parliament that a Bill is proposed. There is no vote on this Reading.

Then comes the main decision making process, which is called the Second Reading.  Before this there is usually a debate, and that debate is usually used to make general political points. Whilst a few of my colleagues actually address the provisions of the Bill, in support or in Opposition, most of them simply talk about politics in general. This is not however unusual or regrettable, since this is what might be described as the political stage of the legislative process.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2011
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