Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A flaw in the recently passed 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

There is an ambiguity in interpreting the Article 46(1)(b) of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka which was almost unanimously passed by the Parliament, during the 100-day pro-good-governance government. I'll quote it:
"Ministers who are not members of
the Cabinet of Ministers and Deputy
Ministers shall not, in the aggregate,
exceed forty."
Here, you can interpret it to have a meaning to the effect that you can appoint up to a maximum of 40 ministers (kind of ministers with such different designations as project ministers, senior ministers, state ministers, etc) who are not (both) Cabinet ministers and (nor) deputy ministers. There is a strict limit for the number of cabinet ministers (less than 30) as per the Article 46(1)(a), and due to the flaw in the above article, there is no limit to the number of deputy ministers. (However, we knew the intention of the said article was to limit the number of both deputies and other ministers to 40.)
The flaw would not have been there if there had been a comma between "the Cabinet of Ministers" and "Deputy Ministers". We know how important even something as little as a comma is in legal writings.
I have not read the Sinhala version yet, and if there is no ambiguity therein, we could neglect this flaw in English version because the Sinhala version automatically supersedes other versions (English and Tamil), according the law in the country. Even so, it's the highest responsibility of the Legal Draftsman Department and Attorney General Department to make sure the wordings of laws are consistent and accurate.

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