New Standing Orders in Parliament | Daily News

New Standing Orders in Parliament

The new Standing Orders numbering 143 were adopted by Parliament recently on April 15. Standing Orders in Parliament have been enacted since the first Parliament was set up in 1948 and have been amended from time to time since its first introduction and were adopted in 1999. This is almost the first time that the Standing Orders have been changed in a significant manner following a report from the Committee of Standing Orders presented to the House by Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya on November 27, 2017 (Parliamentary Series No 314).

The Committee consisted of eight members and was also chaired by the Speaker and was also attended by four senior members appointed to look into and report into special matters consisting of Ministers Rauff Hakeem, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan and MP Chamal Rajapaksa. Twelve sittings of this committee were held from December 2015 to October 2017. They deliberated very diligently and carefully before submitting their recommendations.

codes of colonial Ceylon

A keyword about the history of Standing Orders may be useful. Following the recommendations of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission in 1833, the Executive Council and the Legislative Council were set up. The very first Legislative codes of colonial Ceylon was set up by Governor Sir Robert Horton in 1833. These institutions were located in the building opposite Gordon Gardens and later shifted to the old Parliamentary building at Galle Face. The building was declared open on January 29, 1930, by the then Governor Sir Herbert Stanley and housed the Legislature till it was shifted to the new Parliamentary Complex at Sri Jawardenapura in April 1992. It may be of interest to note that the name of the Legislature has been changed several times as follows:

i. The Legislative Council: 1833-1931 consisting of 41 members

ii. The State Council: 1931-1947 consisting of 61 members

iii. The Home of Representatives: 1947-1972 consisting of 101 members and 157 members after 1960

iv. The National State Assembly: 1972-1978 consisting of 168 members

v. The Parliament 1978 to date consisting of 225 members

According to the available records, the first set of Standing Orders was adopted by the Legislative Council in 1912. These were largely based on those of the British Parliament at that time, largely modelled on Westminster practices followed in the House of Commons. These Standing Orders amended from time to time form the bulk of the Standing Orders that exists until today. It is believed that the then clerk of the House of Commons, Sir Edward Fellowes had assisted in the formulation of the Standing Orders in 1947.

Functioning of Parliament

The Standing Orders of Parliament are the agreed rules under which procedure, debate and the conduct of members in the House are regulated. The main purpose of the Standing Orders is to lay down the procedure for the functioning of Parliament, in an orderly and meaningful manner. It is easily the most important source of our Parliamentary procedure and is often referred to as the bible of our Parliamentary procedure. It provides and sets out ample opportunity for debate and discussion and lays down the procedure for decisions to be taken for matters under consideration.

The Standing Orders have the status of rules under the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Article 74 of the 1978 Constitution states that Parliament may by resolution provide for Standing Orders. Throughout the 12 sittings of the Standing Orders committee over a period of two and half years intensive and comprehensive in-depth study was made of all the available material before the Committee.

To begin with, all the members of Parliament were asked to submit their proposals which included those coming from the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Speaker, Deputy Chairman of the Committees and all the leaders of political parties represented in the House. In addition, the Secretariat asked for and received the views of the Secretariat of many Commonwealth countries including UK, India, Australia and Canada.

All these reports were made available to all the members of the Standing Orders Committee. Proceedings of a Parliamentary Debate on Feb 26, 1993, upon a Motion by the Leader of the House then to approve of Amendments to Standing Orders, was made available to all the members of the Committee. Special attention was focused on few matters which was considered very topical and important. Among others, these included the setting up of Parliamentary Oversight Committees, the approval of Liaison and Statutory Committees, the consultation with the Supreme Court with special reference to the removal of judges and the impeachment of Judges.

At the end of their deliberations, the committee unanimously agreed to make changes in the following Standing Orders.

1. Official oath and affirmation by the Speaker and Members

2. Election of a President

3. Meetings of Parliament

4. Proceedings of the House to be made available for broadcast or telecast

5. Motions or Questions at Adjournment time

6. Private Member Motion

7. Ministerial Statements

8. Personal explanations

9. Questions to Ministers when they are absent and when Members are absent asking the question

10. Questions to the Prime Minister

11. Voting

12. Bills regarding list 3 of the 4th Schedule of the Constitution

13. Order in Parliament

14. Removal of Members for unruly behaviour

15. Sectoral Oversight Committees

16. Legislative Standing Committee

17. Committee on Ethics

18. Committee on Public Accounts

19. Committee on Public Finance

20. Committee on Constitutional Affairs

21. Backbencher Committee

22. Resignation or removal of Chairs of Committees

All these changes have been included into the new Standing Orders adopted in April. It is fervently hoped that with these new changes and Members following and rigorously abiding by these provisions, Parliament will be made into a more vibrant and effective institution and earn the respect it so much deserves at a time when falling standards is much spoken of. 


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