Port city Economic Commission bill that was Presented to the Parliament was not the bill previously introduced by the Prime Minister based on our amendments, but a bizarre distortion by the President on the instructions of P’B Jayasundara Dr. Harsha De Silva Parliamenttarian of Opposition, Samagi Jana Balawegaya told in the Parliament today (19) He further said that the presented bill is completely different with what they have agreed earlier and opposition is opposed to that destructive act .
He said that the Supreme Court was also proposing eight amendments based on the findings that they were unconstitutional and that if Parliament sincerely sought the consent of Parliament for the betterment of the country, he would include them in the debate on the bill and call for a united front on behalf of the country.
Speaking at the debate on Portcity Bill he further said
“The Prime Minister and we agreed on the draft earlier.
As the opposition we are not against the port city. We also believe that there will be an opportunity to make further development leaps through this port city. We agree as a matter of policy for a port city aimed at economic progress of the country.
There are many economic zones in the world. China has invested $ 1.4 billion in this city. However, we as a government did the same with the money of the tax payers of the country. The money will be used to build infrastructure, bring electricity, build undersea roads and highways. That is to say, for good reason.
Mr. Prime Minister. When this bill was brought, democracy was not allowed to be discussed. Under the new constitution there are only 7 days to file objections to the judiciary. There was only one day to protest in court with holidays. This bill was not brought before the Finance Committee to create a dialogue in this regard. An oversight committee was not appointed. There was no opportunity to debate this. We do not need to break the rules that we have laid down behind this debate. Many requested to postpone this for two weeks. The government did not even ask for it.
Hon. Prime Minister. Then in late 2017 the government appointed a committee to draft a framework on legal and investment incentives in the port city. I was the chairman of that committee. Although it was supposed to be presented in November 2018, due to the political situation in the country, it was only in September 2019 that the bill could be accepted with the approval of the Attorney General’s Department.
There were a few key points in that draft.One is that this is a special economic zone for special services. The second is that this is implemented under the BOI Act. All activities are centralized in one window. The other main thing is that this is a government corporation. The other issue is that the members of this commission are appointed by official authority. Because the members of this commission have tremendous power. The last but foremost point of this bill is that 269 hectares of land controlled by the Commission is subject to Parliament. The first draft was in line with parliamentary oversight and full monetary power provided by the Constitution.
After that our government was defeated and a new government was elected. After that the Hon. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the Ferdinand’s Committee. That report was submitted in June 2020. We have it. I agree with the Hon. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The essence of the draft we presented in the committee report when we were in power and later presented by Prime Minister was the same. 95 percent had the same basic model.
But then what happened. Then Hon. President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa presented a draft headed by Jayasundera. This bill is completely different from the basic points we agreed with the Hon. Prime Minister. That is why these problems arose. Only then did the basic concept of a state-owned company change.
Hon. Prime Minister. This is not the bill you submitted. That was the concept of the state corporation. According to a commission, this is a corporation board. It is a government corporation. That’s what changed.
Eighteen parties went to the Supreme Court against this. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to this bill. It was said that these were unconstitutional. That these cannot be done like this. That this cannot be taken out of Parliament.