Sri Lanka

National Forum on Parliamentary Best Practices 2012 – Sri Lanka


SAHR Executive Director Shirani Jayatilleke lights the oil lamp.

SAHR Executive Director Ms. Shiranthi Jayatilaka, and Transparency International, Sri Lanka Exceutive Director Dr. Wijeya Jayatilaka light the oil lamp.

The National Consultation for Pakistan was held in Islamabad on the 29th of August 2012. Among the attendees were the Members of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Honorable Shahnaz Wazir Ali from Pakistan People’s Pasrty and Honorable Bushra Gohar from the Awami National Party.

Other participants included civil society activists, policy makers, lawyers, and the media. The main issues discussed were the role of women parliamentarians, quantity and quality of legislation and the role of media in covering parliament.

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National Forum on Parliamentary Best Practices 2012 – Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka hosted the National Forum on Parliamentary Best Practices 2012, on 16th February, in Colombo. The Chief Guests were Honourable D E W Gunasekera (Senior Minister of Human Resources, and Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises) and Honourable Rauf Hakeem (Minister of Justice, and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee), and were joined by several other parliamentarians, human rights activists, journalists and lawyers. Presentations on the Parliament Watch Programme, and its findings and recommendations regionally, and specific to Sri Lanka, were made. Panel discussions centred on the role of citizens, Members of Parliament, and civil society and media, and their role in promoting a more transparent, accountable and accessible Parliament.

For the full report, click here.

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka: October-December 2010 (3rd Quarterly) Report


In the last few months of 2010 the Sri Lankan parliament passed several important legislations that would have an immediate and direct impact on the lives of Sri Lankans. September saw the passing of the 18th amendment in great secrecy while the Local Government Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill was passed in October with little discussion in both parliament and outside.

This legislative lethargy became more evident in November when several incidents of violence against political and civil society actors who were fighting for the rights of Tamils and the detained LTTE cadres in Jaffna and in December when much publicized illegal financial transactions which tarnished the image of many legislators went virtually unspoken during parliamentary sessions.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka: July-September 2010 (2nd Quarterly) Report


Sri Lankan parliament passed the 18th amendment to the constitution by 161 votes to 17 when it was debated in the house on 8th September 2010. The amendment which was presented as an ‘urgent bill,’ giving the general public only 72 hours to petition the Supreme Court for the purpose of arguing that the Bill has any infringement with the constitution, was approved by the court. Only the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) voted against the bill.

The report reviews the business of parliament from July to September 2010. These are the months in which the government held discussions with opposition parties to discuss constitutional amendments while conducting back room negotiations with MPs to secure a two thirds majority in parliament.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka: April-June 2010 (1st Quarterly) Report


The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won the General Elections of 8th April 2010, by a landslide victory gaining 144 seats in the 225 member parliament1 This victory was largely due to defeating the LTTE in May 2009, a strong performance by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2010 January 26th presidential elections, the promised development drive and the request by the government for a two thirds majority in parliament for the drafting of a people friendly constitution.

This report reviews the conduct of the parliament during the honeymoon period of the government/ the first 100 days and how this overwhelming majority in parliament affects the transparency, good governance and human rights of the country. It also looks at the first steps taken by the government to counter criticism that Sri Lanka has not yet conducted an effective investigation into ‘laws-of-war violations’ by government forces and the LTTE in the final months of the war, by appointing the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which the government claimed was based on the South African Truth Commission.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka – June 2011 Report


Overview

June was marked by the government’s continued obstruction to the presentation of a bill on the Freedom of Information (FoI). An Opposition MP presented it as a Private Members’ bill. Sri Lanka’s ruling party lawmakers defeated the tabled Right to Information bill with a majority of 63 votes. According to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, there were 93 absentees in parliament at the time of the vote. The UNP, the Democratic National Alliance and the Tamil National Alliance voted in favour of the bill.

Freedom of Information

When the 2004 draft bill on the subject was endorsed by both major parties, the general assumption was Sri Lanka would be among the first South Asian countries to pass such progressive legislation. Former Minister of Constitutional Affairs, presently the Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G.L. Peiris in 2005 stressed in a statement to Parliament that, “in theory there is no reason why it should not be adopted.”

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka – September 2011 Report


Overview

There was a sense of euphoria among government members when Parliament met in September 2011 with the much abhorred emergency regulations being lifted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the previous month. Elated by the positive impact such a move had both in Sri Lanka and overseas, government members decided to bring an adjournment motion to Parliament titled “Acclamation on Withdrawal of State of Emergency” to thank the President  for the move. However, all was not as rosy as  it looked on the outside because  later in the month an attempt was made to  extend the term of a controversial  piece of legislation that would allow for detention of suspects for up to 48 hours without  being produced before a Magistrate. However, due to wrangling on a technical issue, this was temporarily put off. Lifting the State of Emergency also led to calls from some opposition parties to do away with the dreaded Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), with harsh laws which are still being used to arrest, detain and keep suspects for prolonged periods in custody without trial.

Jaffna ‘grease yakas’ and the Security Forces

Parliament session began on September 6, 2011 with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe making a special statement to the House on the “Restoration of Law and Order in the Jaffna Peninsula”. Mr. Wickremesinghe referred to the continuing phenomena of “grease yakas”, a group of men covering themselves in tar who were said to be terrorizing the people in the Jaffna peninsula. “There are well over 50,000 security force personnel stationed in Jaffna. Twenty five to thirty per cent of the land is within the High Security Zones. There are many checkpoints and patrolling that takes place round the clock. This is sufficient to apprehend the “grease yakas,” he said.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka – 2011 Overview


TOWARDS AN ACCOUNTABLE PARLIAMENT

“Parliament Watch” is a program jointly implemented by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) and South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) to collectively advocate for a transparent, accountable and rights-focused Parliament and for the promotion of parliamentary best practices.

Implemented by four other South Asian countries in addition to Sri Lanka, (India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh), the objectives of the Parliament Watch program are; a) to examine the human rights implications of parliamentary action, b) promote transparency and accountability in Parliament, c) record and analyze the proactive introduction of enabling legislation to give effect to relevant international conventions, and d) promote public access to Parliament and generate an interest among the citizenry.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka – December 2011 Report


Overview

In December 2011, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission presented the final report to Parliament. However, based on the findings of the report, zero dialogue was initiated. The Commission report was presented in international forums while the Sri Lankan legislature had no clue of its contents. The law and order in the State was once again questioned in Parliament with regard to the state of affairs in the North and the East.

Zero dialogue on the factors observed in the LLRC report

Leader of the House, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva presented the final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to Parliament on December 16, 2011.

For more of the report, click here

Parliament Watch Sri Lanka – October 2011 report


Overview

October 2011 saw the tragic shooting of former parliamentarian Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra in a heated political argument that resulted in a shootout in Kolonnawa on the final day of the Local Government elections. Premachandra was known as a loyalist of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and a trade union veteran who has also provided political leadership to the Kolonnawa electorate for nearly two decades. This occurrence led to a spirited debate in Parliament.

October also saw strong words emerging from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) regarding the failure of meaningful development in the North and East following the end of the war in May 2009. Again, the debate was spirited but the outcome was limited.

For more of the report, click here

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