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… rejects Dr. Amarasekera’s concerns

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Tissa Attanayake says that he moved the controversial ‘Human Rights Organisation (Incorporation) Act’ on the request of Bills Office of the Parliament.

National List MP Attanayake insists he only tried to help the Bills Office as he felt it was a quite legitimate request. The former General Secretary of the UNP acknowledged that he was aware of the unsuccessful bids made in 2013 and 2015 to move the same Bill.

When The Island pointed out that the Supreme Court recently deemed the Bill unconstitutional, MP Attanayake pointed out that Parliament adopted a transparent process in that regard. “I have nothing to hide. In fact, I have absolutely no interest in this particular Bill. Sometimes, the Bills Office seeks our help to present Bills that had been held up for various reasons,” MP Attanayake said.

Attanayake is one of the seven National List MPs in the 54-member SJB parliamentary group.

Asked whether he was aware of Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, on behalf of the Federation of National Organisations (FNO) recently taking up the matter with SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, MP Attanayake said that he explained the issue at hand to the party leader. Declaring his move on behalf of the Bills Office nothing but routine assistance provided by MPs on request, lawmaker Attanayake acknowledged that the SJB leader inquired from him about the issue.

Dr. Amarasekera wrote to MP Premadasa with copies to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena in the wake of The Island report, headlined ‘SC deems SJB MP’s move unconstitutional’ published, with strapline ‘How Parliament violated Standing Orders and Constitution in gazetting twice rejected controversial Bill’ on Sept.09 edition.

MP Attanayake dismissed accusations that he had been involved in a clandestine project meant to undermine the country. “Anyone who believes I have been part of any such project should have his or her head examined,” MP Attanayake.

Responding to another query, MP Attanayake emphasized that the course of action followed by the Parliament as regards the disputed Bill shouldn’t have created such a controversy.

Dr. Amarasekera has requested Premier Rajapaksa, Speaker Abeywardena and SJB leader Premadasa to inquire into the matter.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena and Justice Arjuna Obeyesekere ruled that Clause 6 of the Bill is not consistent with Article 76(1) of the Constitution. The SC has also ruled that Clause 7 of the Bill is not consistent with Articles 3, 4 and 12(1) of the Constitution. Having said so, the SC declared that in terms of the Article 123(2) of the Constitution, the Bill should be passed by a special majority in line with paragraph (2) of Article 84 and endorsed at a Referendum.

Dr. Wasantha Bandara, Raja Goonerathne and Nuwan Ballantudawa moved the SC in terms of Article 121 of the Constitution. In their petition, the Attorney General was named the respondent.

Dr. Amarasekera pointed out in his letter Dr. Bandara said that the same Private Bill had been previously submitted by H. Farook in 2013 (not Hunais Farook as previously reported) and Ali Zahir Moulana in 2015. However, on both occasions, they had failed to proceed with the project due to objections raised by the relevant ministers, Dr. Amarasekera said.

 According to the petition the Bill had been gazetted on July 20, 2021 and placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on August 3 without obtaining the Attorney General’s opinion. Therefore the procedure adopted by Parliament not only violated Standing Orders but Article 78 (2) of the Constitution as well, the SC noted on the basis of submissions made on behalf of the petitioners.

MP Attanayake said that he was given an opportunity to submit the Bill in question with required amendments in terms of the SC ruling. “I didn’t want to do that. Therefore, I have nothing to do with it anymore.”

Asked whether he obtained prior permission from the party to move that Bill, MP Attanayake insisted that there was absolutely no requirement to do so. Members moved Private Bills all the time, the MP said.

Dr. Amarasekera said that Parliament should inquire into this. How Bills Ofice secured privately an MP’s help to move such a controversial matter without it being subjected to Attorney General’s perusal. Dr. Amarasekera said that MP Attanayake’s claim pertaining to the role played by the Bills Office should be properly inquired into.

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