Speaker rules: Motions against CB Governor and Bribery DG be referred to parliament committee before debate


by Saman Indrajith

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa yesterday said the opposition’s motions against Central Bank governor and Director General of the Bribery Commission should be referred to a special committee of Parliament before  being taken up for debate.

Announcing his opinion over the two motions, the Speaker said: MP Dinesh Gunawardena brought to the notice of the Business Committee on Tuesday (19) that there were two important motions – one submitted by Prof G.L. Peiris on April 29, 2015 with signatures of 88 other MPs on the Governor of the Central Bank and the other submitted by MP Bandula Gunawardena on April 21, 2015 with signatures of 105 MPs on the Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, and requested that they be taken up for debate.

This proposal was approved by leader of the Opposition Nimal Siripala de Silva too. Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella pointed out that these two motions were contradictory to the Standing Orders of Parliament and taking them for the debate would set a wrong precedent. MPs Wijayedasa Rajapakshe and Ajith Perera too expressed their opinions supporting the position of Leader of the House. Then I informed the Business Committee that I would inform the House of my position with regard to the matter after studying the situation.

Thereafter, when the House met with Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody presiding, the same matter came up and it led to disorder in the House and paved the way for suspension of the sittings twice and resulted in an urgent meeting of the Business Committee again. Then too I informed the committee that I would study this matter in length and inform the House of my standpoint over the issue. However, the commotion prevailed in the House when it met again and resulted in the adjournment of the House for today.

I would like to state my opinion over the matter. MP Prof G.L Peiris submitted a motion with signatures of 88 other MPs on the Central Bank Governor on April 29, 2015 and it was duly printed on the Order Book of Parliament No 14 (1) dated May 08, 2015 as an undated motion. Once a motion submitted and when I would not rule out it is illegal, the motion should be entered in the Order Book and should not be taken up for debate within the next five days. Such a motion could be taken up for debate after the lapse of stipulated time on the approval of the Business Committee.

A similar motion on the Director General of the CIABOC was submitted by MP Bandula Gunawardena with signatures of 105 other MPs on April 21, 2015 and entered as an undated motion in the Order Book of Parliament No 14 dated April 30, 2015.

According to the Section 4 (A) of the Constitution, in exercising the sovereignty of the people the legislative power of the people shall be exercised by Parliament, consisting of elected representatives of the People and by the People at a Referendum. Further In accordance with the Section 76 (1), Parliament shall not abdicate or in any manner alienate its legislative power, and shall not set up any authority with any legislative power.

According to the Section 148 of the Constitution, Parliament shall have full control over public finance. No tax, rate or any other levy shall be imposed by any local authority or any other public authority, except by or under the authority of a law passed by Parliament or of any existing law.

The primary objective of the 19th amendment to the Constitution that I signed and approved on May 15 was to further strengthen the powers of legislature and to widen the legislature’s powers of supervising the executive.

According to the Section 42 (2) of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, the   Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament.

In accordance with the provisions of the Section 74 of the Constitution, Parliament has the powers to amend Standing Orders in order to inspect and review the functions of state organisations. Under those provisions, to submit motions, debate on them, raising questions in the House could be cited as examples for the powers vested with the House.

It is my opinion that the provisions mentioned in the Section No 3 of the Parliament Powers and Privileges Act too would be important with regard to this matter. ‘There shall be freedom of speech, debate and proceeding in Parliament and such freedom of speech, debate or proceedings shall not be liable to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament. No member shall be liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrest, imprisonment, or damages by reason of anything which he may have said in Parliament or by reason of any matter or thing which he may have brought before Parliament by petition, bill, resolution, motion or otherwise.’

These rights granted to people’s representatives could be hindered or subjugated.

Thus, I cannot accept the opinion that the two motions at question could not be taken for debate in Parliament. Whenever the Standing Orders would not bar any matter, a debate on an issue could be commenced on submission of a substantive motion. Accordingly the two aforesaid motions could be taken up for debate.

However, considering the content of the two motions following facts drawn to my attention, both motions are regarding the conduct of two public officials.  According to the Section 13 (3) of the Constitution, any person charged with an offence shall be entitled to be heard, in person or by an attorney-at-law, at a fair trial by a competent court. This fundamental right is on the basis of principle of natural justice. Further in accordance with the principle known as audi alteram partem, no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them.

Further It is my opinion that these two motions before being taken up for debate should be directed to relevant committees or select committees already set up or specially set up for the purpose to investigate the content of these two motions. The report of such committee containing its observations and recommendations should be submitted within two weeks to Parliament. I suggest that the matter of taking up the two motions for the debate could be considered on the basis of that report.

If not, the motion on governor of the Central Bank could be referred to the Committee on Public Enterprises and could be investigated by a committee appointed by COPE chairman and the report should be submitted to the House within two weeks.

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