You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Private Bill’ tag.

downloadSeveral papers, though interestingly enough not all, carried accounts last week of the failure of Vasantha Senanayake to propose the Constitutional Amendment that stood in his name on the Order Paper of Parliament on September 25th. It was not however registered that he had not withdrawn the motion, which was to introduce statutory limitations on numbers in the Cabinet. He merely postponed it, while meanwhile requesting government to set up a Committee to go into that and other constitutional amendments he had proposed.

It seemed to me a pity that he had not gone ahead with the motion, not least because of the enthusiasm with which government members had greeted it on the day. One government MP came up to congratulate him, and was deeply disappointed to be told that he would not be proposing it that day. Even more surprisingly, a Cabinet Minister, albeit a particularly honest and honourable one, told me it was a very good idea. And the enthusiasm of the opposition also took the form of recognition of their own inadequacies, for Ravi Karunanayake, who had proposed something of the sort through a Private Members Motion, granted that it was much more effective to put forward a Bill.

Ravi indeed has contributed to the contumely in which Private Members Motions are held, by proposing hundreds of varying importance, which has contributed to Fridays becoming a day to avoid Parliament. And it is a mark of the lack of awareness about Parliamentary practice in those who pass for senior Parliamentarians that it was a first time member who registered the importance of putting forward a Bill, instead of adding through a Motion to the tedium of Fridays. That day in Parliament is now largely the preserve of Ravi and of his great rival Buddhika Pathirana, along with legions of the dead (obituaries being the other main subject of discussion on Fridays, apart from the motions of the dynamic duo).

The assumption in the press was that Vasantha had been pressed by the UPFA leadership into withdrawing the motion. This had indeed happened earlier, for he had put forward the Bill some months ago, but on that occasion the President had spoken to him and, in talking about his bright future, persuaded him not to put it on the agenda. I suppose it is because I do not have a future that I would have sought some sort of commitment from His Excellency to encourage debate and discussion on the matter, but I can understand someone of Vasantha’s age believing that that would not be the end of the matter. Read the rest of this entry »

As we have seen, Members of Parliament do not have much of a role to play in the initiation of legislation, which is largely left to the Executive. The same is true of the second principal responsibility of parliamentarians, namely the budget. Formulation of that too is left almost wholly to the Executive. In neither case can we say however that this is inappropriate, since on the whole laws and regulations and financial provision require an expertise that Members of Parliament not involved in departmental duties cannot possess.

In other countries however a distinct role remains in terms of private members’ bills, as well as questions and adjournment motions, through which the occasional significant contribution can be made to discussion of important issues and thus, one hopes, to national policy too. In Sri Lanka however none of these seem now to serve much general purpose.

With regard to private members bills, unfortunately we have an old tradition that such bills are taken up in the order in which they are proposed. Thus an enterprising member can stuff up the space for such bills by putting forward a dozen and more at the very inception of a parliamentary session.

When these bills are clearly intended to score debating points, with no real concern to promote reform, they end up being of no interest to anybody, except possibly the person who proposed them. Thus the first private bill before Parliament in the current session is one that criticizes the assumption by the President of particular portfolios. Since such an assumption is explicitly provided for in the current constitution, and since all previous Presidents have taken on various portfolios, it is apparent that the bill is not really serious. Even the opposition recognizes this, for the bill has hardly been debated, the Chief Opposition Whip working together with government members to ensure that there is no quorum when it is taken up.

So the Sri Lankan Parliament is in the sorry state of not having concluded even one private members bill as yet, almost a year after Parliament was convened. Sadly the same philosophy seems to be followed with the vast majority of Parliamentary questions, another tool that should be used to ensure accountability on the part of the Executive. A large number of questions do not address policy issues, but are used to draw attention to information of a parochial nature.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2020
%d bloggers like this: