Written by Tharushan Fernando
18 Dec, 2016 | 10:04 pm
A feature of the Development Special Provisions Bill that has drawn much attention, is the inability to file civil or criminal cases. Section 51 a and b of the Bill reads as follows – “No action or prosecution shall be instituted against – (a) the Agency, Board or other institution for any act, which in good faith is done, or purported to be done, by such agency, board or other institution coming within this Act; or (b) any member, officer, servant or agent of such agency, board or other institution for any act which is done, or purported to be done by him in good faith under this Act or on the direction of such agency, board or other institution, as the case may be.
Such immunity from prosecution has only been provided by the constitution to the president of the country thus far. Incidentally, the 19th amendment to the constitution, introduced following the election of President Maithripala Sirisena, limited the immunity afforded to the president, creating instances where even the president of the country can be brought before the law.
Experts in the law opine that while the president is acting to let go of certain powers, this Bill, if enacted, would create a super ministry which centralizes several powers. Senior Lawyer, Attorney.-at-Law Gomin Dayasri explained that what is most dangerous about this Bill is that it creates a Super Minister who can appropriate the powers of the other ministers. And it brings under his purview, all economic and financial affairs. He added that it will all be brought under a single ministry with a managing director and six board members, while separate boards will be introduced for the rural economy and the commercial economy in Colombo and the power will be concentrated with a single super minister and the only power vested with the President is to meet with these officials once a year. He also pointed out that what is even more dangerous in this Bill is that it prevents any civil or criminal action being taken against any board or agency established under the act. “If an act of major thievery is carried out, we will be unable to file legal action. At a time when the immunity granted to the President is being curtailed, why is a certain individual being granted complete financial and economical control over the country? This turns the Finance Minister into a puppet”, he said .
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