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* Sri Lanka government to present poverty alleviation bill with amendments to avert referendum
Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 01:45 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 05, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government plans to present the amended Divi Neguma Bill in the parliament on January 08 when the House meets after the holidays.

The controversial poverty alleviation bill will have 10 amendments to avert a referendum and the government expects to pass it with a two-third majority in parliament after it is debated for two days.

According to Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody, the amendments will be made before the Bill is presented in parliament. The amendments are based on the recommendations made by the Supreme Court after considering 14 petitions filed against the Bill.

The Divi Neguma Bill proposes the establishment of a new department by amalgamating the Samurdhi Authority, Southern Development Authority and the Udarata Development Authority to better achieve the grassroots economic development and alleviate poverty.

The Supreme Court had determined that several clauses of the Bill need to be passed by a special majority in parliament while one clause that gives the authority to the Minister to appoint administrative zones would require the approval of the people at a referendum unless it is amended to give that appointing authority to the Cabinet of Ministers.

When the proposed Divi Neguma Department Bill was presented in parliament for the first time in August last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bill needs to be approved by the provincial councils before being made a law in parliament.

Following the Supreme Court directive the government presented the Bill to the eight functioning provincial councils and to the Governor of the Northern Province where the PC government is not yet established after the end of the war.

All provincial councils except the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) approved the Bill and the governor of Northern Province approved the Bill for the NPC.

However, the Governors' approval was challenged by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the Supreme Court which then ruled that certain clauses of the draft bill had to be approved by a majority in the parliament as well as through a public referendum.

The government says that a referendum will be averted through amendments.

However the coalition partners of ruling alliance, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and leftist parties remain undecided on whether to support the Bill in parliament.

General Secretary of the SLMC, parliamentarian Hassan Ali has said that the SLMC will take a decision after the party's parliamentary group meets today since the party has not been able to take a decision when it met on Friday.

The Leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), Minister Tissa Vitharana has said that his party's stance would be announced next Sunday during its central working committee meeting.

Meanwhile, both government and opposition parliamentarians have been advised not to leave the country in the near future as two important legislative processes - the Divi Neguma Bill and the impeachment of Chief Justice debate- are scheduled to take place in parliament when it reconvenes on the 8th.

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