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* Sri Lankan government decides to amend poverty alleviation bill to avoid referendum
Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 09:28 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Nov 07, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government has decided to amend the controversial Divi Neguma Bill in order to avoid a referendum directed by the Supreme Court.

The General Secretary of the governing United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Minister Susil Premajayantha today said that amendments would be introduced to the Bill at committee stage of the debate on the Bill in parliament.

"We will follow the instructions given in the second ruling by the Supreme Court on the Divi Neguma Bill and will introduce amendments so as to make the Bill consistent with the Constitution," the Minister told the media today.

The Supreme Court in its second ruling had determined that the Divi Neguma Bill would require a special two-thirds majority to be enacted into law and 12 clauses of the bill were inconsistent with the Constitution.

The Speaker of Sri Lanka parliament announced the Supreme Court's ruling on the controversial poverty alleviation bill in the parliament when it reconvened Tuesday.

The apex court has ruled that the Clause 8 of the draft legislation that vests the power to the Minister to appoint zonal heads of the proposed Divineguma Department would require a two-thirds majority and a referendum before it can be deemed Constitutional.

The Supreme Court also ruled that the government must obtain the approval from all provincial councils and approval by the governor for the Northern Provincial Council cannot be substituted for people's approval. The opinions from provincial council should be properly obtained and it should be passed by two-third majority in Parliament, the Court decided.

Minister Premajayantha noting that a referendum was not called even for the 13th Amendment of the Constitution said the Supreme Court directive on the current piece of legislation was different from those given on more controversial and sensitive issues.

However, he reiterated that the second Supreme Court ruling would be observed.

The Minister said Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa will move for the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee made up of members from the government and the opposition to amend the legislation.

The controversial legislation aimed at alleviation of poverty in the country with the community participation proposes the establishment of a new Divineguma Department by amalgamating the Samurdhi Authority, Southern Development Authority and the Udarata Development Authority to better achieve the grassroots economic development.

The bill put forward by the Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa has drawn so much controversy that it has been scrutinized by the Supreme Court twice and also 14 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court in support of and against the legislation.

** Related Story :: Controversial poverty alleviation bill presented in Sri Lanka parliament for the second time

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