Written by Lahiru Fernando
20 Dec, 2016 | 9:42 pm
The Development Special Provisions Bill is much talked about as a draft bill that attempts to create a post of a ‘Super Minister’. The contents of the draft Bill has been the center of our focus during the past few days.
If the Development Special Provisions Bill is enacted in Parliament, will it undermine the authority of the President?
According to the Development Special Provisions Draft Bill, “super powers” will be vested with the two Ministers in-charge of the portfolios of National Policies and Economic Affairs and Development Strategies and International Trade.
Currently the Minister in charge of National Policies and Economic Affairs is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Development strategies and international trade is the portfolio of Minister Malik Samarawickrema.
There are two instances in the Bill which involved the President. One is the Rural Modernization Board.
While the President is an ex-officio member of the Rural Modernization Board, it (the board) is tasked with approving plans formulated by development agencies for Rural Modernization.
In addition, the 45th paragraph of the Bill says the President can convene annul meetings with Ministers, Chief Ministers’ and Members of Parliament Committees to discuss development plans.
Legal experts are of the view that this Bill further curbs the President’s powers.
According to Gomin, he (the President) is entitled to “officially address the people concerned, once a year. And compulsorily once a year.”
Att.-at-Law Gomin Dayashri also said “You think a discussion once a year as far as a powerful person, who has most power in the country running as against a Super Minister if going to be effective?”
The senior lawyer also said -though the Head of State has “executive powers”- it is not possible for him (the President) to react now because it ” is a battle not between the President and the Prime Minister, it is a battle between the executive and the Legislator, this is Legislation. Now what he can do is, the executive can use his authority, his position in the SLFP and squash this.”
“He surely has made a puppet. A puppet on a string. Because he can only meet these people once a year, annually. what can he do meeting them annually because most of the power is vested with the Super Minister.” he added.
Minister of Petroleum Resources Development Chandima Weerakkody stated that ‘Super Ministries’ existed during the previous regime and “We didn’t know until it destroyed our government.”
Thereby, the Minister said that the concept of a ‘Super Ministry’ will not be agreed upon.
Furthermore, Duminda Dissanayake (Minister of Agriculture) stated that a decision has been reached at the Cabinet briefing against a ‘Super Minister’.
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