SC to take up four petitions tomorrow
The Supreme Court will tomorrow take up four petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Divineguma Bill.
Among those who have challenged the bill are an employee of the Samurdhi Authority, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).
The JVP in its petition said the provisions of the bill would enable the setting up of two banking systems outside the Banking Act and hence would not come under the scrutiny of the Central Bank.
The JVP also said that according to the Director General of Samurdhi, Rs. 49,000 million was deposited in 1,044 Samurdhi Banks and the bill would enable the Economic Development Minister, under whose purview the Divineguma Development Fund would come to use the money without any accountability.
The JVP said there were 20,000 employees in the Samurdhi Authority and while the bill stated that some of the employees would be absorbed into the new Divineguma department and be entitled to a pension it was not mentioned whether these employees would get their ETF and EPF money that had been collected over 15 years.
The JVP in its petition also referred to the declaration of secrecy provisions which stated that all employees of the new department shall before entering upon their duties, sign a declaration pledging themselves to observe strict secrecy regarding all matters connected with the working of the department. However, the bill enables the new department’s employees to obtain information from other government institutions.
The Divineguma Bill provides for the amalgamation of the Samurdhi Authority, the Southern Development Authority and the Udarata Development Authority to form the Department of Divineguma Development.
The CPA in its petition said the bill contained several clauses providing for the takeover of subjects allocated to the Provincial Councils in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This had raised serious concerns not merely of centralisation and the consolidation of power, but also of the political will of the Government in terms of its pledges to implement the full existing provisions in the constitution on devolution.
Another issue raised by the CPA was that the Bill would take away the ambit of oversight mechanisms, especially in the area of financial control and accountability. The Divineguma Bill was presented to Parliament on August 10 by the Government which says it is intended to mobilise people into a national development process at community level.