Sarath N. Silva files petition against PC Elections Amendment Act

Former Chief Justice Sarath N Silva filed a petition at the Supreme Court against the Provincial Council Elections Amendment Act.

The Provincial Council Elections Amendment Act was passed by Parliament recently.

However local civil society had raised concerns over the passage of the Act.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said it was extremely concerned by the rushed and non-transparent process followed by the government to amend the Provincial Councils Elections Act.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) said it was also alarmed by the lack of consultation and procedure adopted in the passage of the Provincial Councils Elections (Amendment) Act. In making substantial committee stage amendments, a key democratic check has been sidestepped as there is no opportunity to assess the constitutional conformity of the amendments.

TISL is of the position that committee stage amendments should only be made insofar as the Standing Orders of parliament permit them. The standing orders contain the rules of parliamentary procedure and conduct. Standing Order 57 mentions that “the principle of the bill shall not be discussed in committee”. In this instance, an amendment to introduce a wholly new electoral system, would at the very least require a discussion of principles. In failing to adhere to this parliamentary procedure, it would seem that the legislation has been perverted to further delay elections due to the need for delimitation.

Efforts to undertake progressive reforms such as the adoption of a mixed electoral system are commendable. However the public will only find out the actual details of the new electoral system once the final Act is published. If key features like a dual ballot vote are omitted, the reforms could prove regressive. Commenting on the issue, TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere said, “This is the archetypal illustration of closed government in practice – despite the government being a member of the Open Government Partnership.”

The law only allows for pre-enactment judicial review, that is before the Bill is debated in Parliament. Therefore appending key areas to a Bill in committee stage results in undermining a key check on Parliament
Obeyesekere added “this illustrates a significant democratic deficit and highlights the need to strictly adhere to parliamentary procedure and the need for post enactment judicial review.” (Colombo Gazette)


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