20A Sails Through With 2/3rds Majority
By Gagani Weerakoon
The bill, titled ‘Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution,’ was passed in Parliament late last evening with the required two-thirds majority. The Bill was passed with amendments during the Third Reading, with 156 voting for and 65 against the Bill.
The Second Reading of the 20th Amendment Bill also received a two-thirds majority, with 156 votes in favour and 65 against in the 225-member Legislature. There were only 221 out of 223 MPs present in Parliament. Only Polonnaruwa District MP Maithripala Sirisena was not present at the time of the vote.
With the passage of the 20th Amendment, the hand of the Executive will be strengthened and the powers that were stripped from the President under the 19th Amendment would be restored.
All Government members voted for the Bill, with several Opposition MPs also voting in favour.
Eight Opposition MPs, including SJB Anuradhapura District MPs Ishak Rahuman and M.S. Thowfeek, National List MP Dayana Gamage, Digamadulla MPs H.M.M. Harees and Faizal Cassim, Badulla District MP A. Aravindh Kumar, SLMC Batticaloa District MP NaseerAhamad and MNA Puttalam District MP A.S. Raheem voted with the Government MPs.
The SJB, NPP, ITAK and several other Opposition MPs from different parties voted against the Bill.
The final vote was taken last night, at the end of the two-day debate on the Bill, which had been strongly opposed by Opposition lawmakers, but also by members of the Buddhist and Catholic/Christian clergy, and civil society groups.
During the Third Reading of the Bill (Committee Stage), the Government introduced several amendments, some in keeping with the determination of the Supreme Court and others suggested by those within the Government.
Chief Opposition Whip, Lakshman Kiriella, asked for a division on the Clause on permitting dual citizens to enter Parliament, and when that particular Clause was put to a vote, it received 157 votes for and 64 votes against. ACMC Digamadulla District MP S.M.M. Musharaff, who voted against the 20th Amendment Bill at the Second Reading vote, however, cast his vote in favour of the clause.