Judgement on referendum set for Aug. 10

[TamilNet, Thursday, 02 August 2001, 22:43 GMT]
The arguments for and against the cancellation of the referendum were heard by for the third day by the Sri Lanka's Appeal Court Thursday. The court said that judgment will be given on 10 August.

The arguments against the referendum largely hinge on the interpretation of Article 85 of the Sri Lanka's constitution and its relevance to Article 86. On a constitutional point the Kumaratunga is on a strong wicket.

The lawyers for the opposition and the NGOs pitch their arguments on the provisions of Article 85. The Article says, "The President shall submit to the People by Referendum every bill or any provision in any bill which the cabinet of ministers has certified as being intended to be submitted to the People by Referendum, or which the Supreme Court has determined as requiring the approval of the People at a Referendum if the number of votes cast in favour of such a bill amounts to not less than two thirds of the whole number of members".

referendum_protest_2_310701.jpg
University students demonstrate in front of the Fort Railway station in Colombo on 31 July 2001, protesting against the President's decision to prorogue parliament and to hold a referendum on August 21. The demonstration was organised by Federation of University Students Union.
(Photo: TamilNet)
According to Article 85.2 the President can submit to the People by Referendum any bill rejected by the Parliament (provided that it is not for the repeal or amendment of the constitution or is inconsistent with any provision of the constitution).

However, Article 85 refers only to referendum on bills placed on the order paper of the Parliament, including ones for the amendment or repeal and replacement of the constitution.

The matter before the people at the 21 August referendum is only a question whether they deem a new constitution necessary or not. The referendum would be inconsistent with the provisions of Article 85 and hence illegal only if it includes the new constitution for the People's approval.

The question posed at the 21 August referendum is quite consistent with Article 86 of the Sri Lankan constitution. It says, "The President may, subject to the provisions of Article 85, submit to the People by Referendum any matter which in his opinion of the President is of national importance."

 

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