22nd Amendment to the Constitution passed in Parliament

22nd Amendment to the Constitution passed in Parliament

The third reading of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution has been passed in Parliament by a majority of 173 votes.

Announcing the result of the vote on the third reading of the bill, the Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena informed the House that 174 had voted in favour of the bill while only MP Sarath Weerasekara voted against it.

Meanwhile it is reported that 44 Members of Parliament including former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa were absent during the vote. 

Earlier, the second reading of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution Bill was passed by a majority of 178 votes.

During the division, 179 parliamentarians in total voted in favour of the bill while it received only one vote against it, with SLPP parliamentarian Sarath Weerasekara deciding to oppose the bill.

The two-day parliamentary debate on the second reading of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution Bill commenced on Thursday (Oct. 20). At the end of the debate today, a vote was called on the bill.

The 22A draft bill was approved for its second reading at the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms held on Oct. 04.

Later, the Committee on Parliamentary Business, which met under the chairmanship of Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana, decided to schedule the debate for Oct. 20 and Oct. 21.

The constitutional amendment is expected to empower parliament over the executive president and annul the 20A to the Constitution, which had given unfettered powers to President after abolishing the 19th Amendment.

Under the 22A, the President, the Cabinet of Ministers and the National Council will be held accountable to the parliament. Fifteen Committees and Oversight Committees are also accountable to parliament.

The 22A comprises features of both the 19th amendment introduced by the Yahapalana Government and the 20th amendment brought forth under the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

According to the draft Bill, a Constitutional Council will come into effect which will consist of members including the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the Opposition Leader, a Member of Parliament appointed by the President, two members nominated by both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. The council will be chaired by the Speaker.

The Public Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Audit Service Commission, Human Rights Commission, Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, Finance Commission, Delimitation Commission and the National Procurement Commission shall be responsible and answerable to the parliament. However, Election Commission is not.

As per this amendment, no person shall be appointed by the President unless such appointment has been approved by the council upon a recommendation made to the council by the Head of State in instances of appointing the Chief Justice and the judges of the Supreme Court, the president and the judges of the Court of Appeal, the members of the Judicial Service Commission other than its chairman.

The same is applicable when appointing the Attorney General, the Auditor General, the Inspector-General of Police, the Central Bank Governor, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The 22A abolishes the ability of a dual citizen to be appointed as a Member of Parliament.

It also includes provisions of the 20th amendment that the number of Cabinet Ministers shall not exceed 30 and the number of ministers who are not members of the Cabinet and Deputy Ministers shall not exceed 40.

However, if a recognized political party or an independent group which obtains the highest number of seats in parliament forms a national government, the number of ministers in the Cabinet, the ministers who are not in the Cabinet and Deputy Ministers shall be determined by the parliament.