While we accept the fact that countries like ours need foreign investments and it is necessary to offer incentives to attract foreign investments the bill presented to Parliament titled “Colombo Port City Economic Commission” violates the basic structure of our constitution.
Foreign Investments has to be welcomed but not at the expense of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the basic structure of the constitution.
The provisions of the bill if adopted will not only make the slogan “one law, one country” a farce but will create an independent entity with rule making (legislative) powers and executive powers independent of any parliamentary oversight. As specifically laid down in the bill, the Port City Economic Commission will not be subject to the supervisory power of any of the oversight committees of Parliament such as the Public Accounts Committee, Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). It violates the most important power of parliament over finances. The commission will be independent of the scrutiny by the Auditor General. Therefore in fact when these provisions are read with section 52 and 53 if the bill which exempts all laws on taxation and financial control from its application to the Port City it will be an entity with full financial and administrative control over the Port City. Section 73 lists very important laws of the country regarding management, control and planning of our country which will have no force of law within the Port City.
The provisions of the bill makes it clear that the powers by the commission will seep into remaining areas of our country by the provisions in the bill that when any of the business authorities recognized by the commission enters into agreements with entities outside the Port City these safe guards vested on these authorities will be applicable to these entities as well. Which in fact will mean that the commission can virtually control many areas even outside the Port City.
It is specifically laid down that labour laws of our country will not apply to those employees within the Port City. Even the Public Service Commission will not have any hold on public servants even if they are employed within the Port City.
It is clear that the provisions of the bill violates Articles 3 and 4 of the constitution and has to be passed by a 2/3 majority of Parliament.
We are strongly of the view that this bill cannot be passed even with a 2/3 majority as it is against the basic structure of the constitution. As it is our view that even with a 2/3 majority Parliament cannot legislate to renounce the power of Parliament over a part of the country.
Convener – Lawyers for Democracy
‘Lawyers for Democracy (LfD) is a representative body of legal practitioners throughout the island. Conveners include Lal Wijenayake, Chandrapala Kumarage, J. C. Weliamuna, K. S. Ratnavale, Sudath Netthisinghe, Sudarshana Gunawardana. It was established on 10th December 2009’.