The Role of the Speaker

posted on: 25-08-2012

The position of the Speaker is the most important position in the Sri Lankan Parliament. He/She is the individual who chairs the country’s legislative body, the Parliament of Sri Lanka and is the ultimate authority of the Parliament. The Speaker fulfills a number of important functions in relation to the operation of the House, which is based upon the British Westminster Parliamentary system.

The Speaker is the National and International representative of the Sri Lankan Parliament and ranks third in the order of precedence in the country. The first task of any newly elected Parliament is to elect a Speaker as it cannot function without a Speaker. Even though the appointment of a new Speaker is politically based, the selection has usually been through a unanimous election.

The Speaker derives his powers from the Constitution, Standing Orders, the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, and the conventions and practices of Parliament. He/She presides at the sittings of the House and is responsible for the observance of the Rules of Order. The Speaker exercises the authority of Parliament vested in him/her judiciously and in the best interests of the Parliament. He/She has an exceptional authority to rule out matters concerning the Parliament which are not especially mentioned in the rules of the House. All decisions made by the speaker with regard to Parliamentary matters are final and cannot be challenged, criticized or argued. But requests can be made to him to reconsider his decision.

The Secretary General of Parliament is the official advisor to the Speaker in the matter of exercise of all the powers and functions that belong to the Speaker and to the House through the Speaker. The Speaker is also responsible to the house and all of its members, whether in the Government of the Opposition.

Official communications to and from the House are signed by and addressed to the Speaker. The certification of legislation and of any resolution for the imposition of civic disability and expulsion of a Member of Parliament, the reference to the Supreme Court of any resolution for the removal of the President from office and satisfying that a Bill to amend the Constitution does not conflict with the constitutional requirements are some of the Speaker’s statutory duties. The Speaker alone can entertain a motion for the impeachment of the President.

The Speaker is the guardian of the powers and privileges of the House. He/She appoints Chairmen and members to Select Committees while the Speaker functions as the Chairman of every Committee of the House, the Committee of Selection, the House Committee, the Committee on Standing Orders and the Committee on Parliamentary Business.

The Speaker neither speaks nor votes in Parliament except when at a division the votes are equal. In such an event the Speaker could cast His/Her vote to decide the issues, but such instances have been very rare in the Sri Lankan Parliament.

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