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Protection against Enforced Disappearances Bill passed in Parliament sans amendments

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  • Move to protect Sri Lankans from extradition dismissed by JO on technicality  

 By Skandha Gunasekara

The Protection against Enforced Disappearances Bill was passed in Parliament yesterday without the amendments proposed by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana clarifying that Sri Lankans were excluded from the clause on extradition.

Following objections from the Joint Opposition that the bill was unclear in the extradition clause and may allow Lankans to be extradited to a foreign state, Minister Marapana moved amendments to the bill to amend the clause on extradition in the bill for clarity that it would not apply to Sri Lankan citizens.  The inclusion of a phrase “excluding Sri Lankans” in Section 8 of the bill was to expel doubts held by some that the legislation allows a foreign state to try a Sri Lankan, who is found to have committed an offense, in a court of law in that respective state.

However, the Joint Opposition protested that these amendments could not be added as it was neither made available to the MPs nor was it available in all three languages, which was a violation of Standing Orders.

Joint Opposition parliamentary group leader MP Dinesh Gunawardana said that “it was the duty of the Secretary General of Parliament to place a copy of amendments on the desk of each MP. As the copies of amendments are not there the debate is not complete.”

Intervening at this point, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that if the Joint Opposition did not want the amendments the Bill would be passed without its inclusion. Thereafter, a vote was taken and the Bill was passed with 53 votes in favour and 19 votes against it in its second reading stage and 53 for and 16 against at the third reading stage.

Accordingly, the Bill was enacted without the amendment.


JO charges enactment violated Standing Orders

The Joint Opposition had warned Speaker Karu Jayasuriya at yesterday’s party leaders meeting that if the enactment of the Protection against Enforced Disappearances Bill was not reversed, they would take up the issue with international parliamentary watchdogs.

Speaking to the Daily FT soon after the party leaders meeting at the parliamentary complex yesterday, Joint Opposition parliamentary group leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena charged: “After we raised doubts about certain clauses of the Bill, Minister Tilak Marapana proposed amendments to clarify the issue. The amendments to the bill were moved by Minister Marapana. Thereafter, when an objection was raised that the amendments were not made available in all three languages and were not given to all MPs, the Prime Minister said that they would pass the Bill without amendments and proceeded to withdraw the amendments. He cannot do so. So only the MP who moved the amendments can withdraw or the House must reject. Therefore, the Bill was passed illegally and that decision must be reversed,” MP Gunawardena said.

He said that the Joint Opposition would take the matter up with the Inter-Parliamentary Union as well as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association if the Speaker failed to rectify the problem.

“The Speaker accepted that certain violations of the Standing Order had occurred during the passing of the Bill,” he said.


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