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Two-thirds NOD for Port City Bill

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The Port City Commission Bill was passed in Parliament on Thursday with 150 votes in favour, which is a two-thirds majority. The votes in favour were earlier announced as 148 for the Second Reading due to a miscalculation. The miscalculation has occurred as the Electronic Voting System (EVS) has not tallied the ‘yes’ votes of Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, and Jayarathna Herath who were present in the Chamber and voted for the Bill.

Commenting on this error, Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC said yesterday (21) that there was a defect or technical flaw in the EVS used by Parliament in passing bills.

He emphasized that the error was further confirmed by the fact that although he had voted in favour of the Port City Bill on the previous day, it was not recorded that he had voted or was in Parliament.

The Port City Bill was passed by a majority of 91 votes with 149 in favour, the Speaker announced at the end of the vote. However, the votes of the Justice Minister and MP Jayarathna Herath had not been counted. When inquired the Justice Minister said - “During the Second Reading of the Port City Bill, I proposed a number of Amendments to it. I was in the House at that time. I pressed the green button to cast my vote.

Later in the relevant notes it was found that there was no name and no vote under my name. As a party we have informed the Speaker about this. We believe that the relevant decisions will be taken by the Speaker. It is clear that there is a flaw in this system”.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam said his party would take steps to urge the Speaker to launch an extensive inquiry into this serious issue. “We would like to know how this happened and whether it has been done deliberately,” Kariyawasam stated in a news release. He said it was problematic that a two-thirds majority had not been initially recorded for the passage of this crucial bill.

Significantly, the two thirds majority was obtained even without the votes of nine Members of the ruling party and others from the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and Ahila Ilangei Public Congress (AIPC) who were previously allied with the Government, who were either not present in the Chamber due to various reasons including overseas visits, hospitalisation and illness or chose to abstain.

The passage of the Port City Commission Bill by a two-thirds majority is a sign of the confidence placed by the Members in the economic potential of the Port City, which is already under construction with the first high rise to be completed by 2025, political analysts said. The Government had incorporated all the Amendments proposed by the Supreme Court in its determination in the Bill presented to Parliament for debate.

Four Members of the SJB, the main Opposition, voted in favour of the Bill, namely Diana Gamage, Arvind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman and Ali Sabri Raheem. These four Members had also previously voted for the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. During the Third Reading, Government Member S.B. Dissanayake had not been present in the Chamber. One hundred and forty nine ‘yes’ votes were thus received for the Bill on the Third Reading. Fifty eight Members voted against the Bill including those from the SJB, National People’s Power (NPP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

Some of these parties were also among the 19 parties, organisations and individuals who had filed petitions against the Bill in the Supreme Court. These petitions were filed claiming that this Bill compromises the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. On Tuesday (18), Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena presented the Supreme Court’s determination on the Colombo Port City Bill in Parliament.

The Supreme Court determined that several clauses of the Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court determined that these clauses could either be amended as suggested or passed in Parliament with a special majority and/or a referendum.

The 62-page Supreme Court determination on the Bill, had included details on how these affected clauses could be amended. The Government later announced that it agrees with all Supreme Court determinations and amendments with regard to the Colombo Port City Bill.

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