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Manthri.lk - Glossary

Definition of Key Terms

Adjournment Motions

A method used by members of the Parliament to focus the attention of the House on a definite matter of urgent public importance at short notice. These are heard at the end of a parliamentary sitting day; after the conclusion of the question time and before public business is entered upon.

Bills

All legislative proposals have to be introduced to the Parliament in the form of a Bill. The most common forms of Bills are Government Bills and Private Members Bills. On receiving the Speakers Certificate, a Bill is enacted (referred to as an Act) and becomes law.

Committees

Parliament has a system of committees that each comprise of a small number of members of parliament who are authorised to carry out detailed preliminary discussion of all the important matters. Currently, the Parliament of Sri Lanka has six types of committees, namely: Committees for Special Purposes, Sectoral Oversight Committees, Select Committees, Standing Committees, and Committees on Public Finance.

Expunged Statements

The speaker has the right to expunge objectionable words and anything said in contravention of the standing orders of Parliament from the official transcript (Hansard). It is also at the discretion of the Speaker to expunge personal comments and insinuations upon the request of a member.

Hansard

The official verbatim transcript of parliamentary debates. The contributions are recorded in the language in which they are delivered (Sinhala/Tamil/English). The Hansard forms the primary source of data for Manthri.lk parliamentary research.

Orders

A form of delegated legislation (statutory instrument). However, compared to regulations, they do not confer the same discretionary power on ministers. Typically, they are related to specific cases/persons, as opposed to Regulations, which are of more general application.

Petitions

Petitions enable MPs to bring to the notice of Parliament the flaws in the administrative machinery of the Government identified by their constituents, and seek redress for grievances suffered by them. There is no limit to the subjects on which petitions may be presented and neither is there any limitation on the number of petitions, which may be presented by a single MP. Petitions are entertained by the Petitions Committee.

Points of Order

This refers to the right of all parliamentarians to bring to the attention of the house that a procedural disorder has occurred. This is its proper use as established under the standing order 71(3) of the Parliament of Sri Lanka. Conversely, the right is abused if a parliamentarian purports to have a point of order, but makes a flawed representation that only succeeds in interrupting proceedings or causing a disturbance.

Prime Minister’s Questions

Since February 2016, the Sri Lankan parliament allows MPs to directly question the Prime Minister. Questions are submitted in advance and limited to four MPs every first Wednesday of the month.

Privileges

All members of the Parliament enjoy certain privileges, these include freedom of Speech and debate or proceedings in parliament, non-liability to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrest, imprisonment, or damages by reason of anything, which he may have said in Parliament amongst other things. These privileges are found in the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1977.

Productive Time

The research team surveyed MPs across the political party spectrum and ascertained the amount of productive time they typically expend when engaged in their parliamentary main chamber contributions. These parliamentary contributions, are tracked by Manthri.lk, and classified into 15 discrete topic categories. Productive time scores are then calculated based on either the instance of a particular input in the Hansard e.g. per written question, or by volume, based on the amount of non-disruptive oral contributions in the Hansard e.g. adjournment motion - oral contribution.

Regulations

A regulation is the highest form of delegated legislation, which directly enables a minister to expand powers, as provided for under the enabling primary legislation (Act of Parliament).

Resolutions

Resolutions are non-binding motions that are always submitted in the written format. Resolutions do not become laws and are used by the legislature to express the body's approval or disapproval of something, which they cannot otherwise vote on, due to the matter being handled by another jurisdiction, or being protected by the constitution.

Secretary-General of Parliament

The Secretary-General of Parliament is the Chief Executive of the Parliament and is appointed by the President with the concurrence of the Constitutional Council. According to the Parliament website, the designated tasks include advising the Speaker and other Presiding Officers on matters relating to Parliamentary procedure, constitutionality of Bills, Standing Orders, privileges and any other matters concerning the functioning of the Parliament. The Secretary General of Parliament is further assisted by the Deputy Secretary General and the Assistant Secretary General of Parliament in carrying out his/her responsibilities.

Serjeant-at-Arms

As the custodian of the “Mace”, which symbolizes the authority of the Parliament, the Serjeant at Arms is entrusted the task of facilitating the effective functioning of the House of Parliament by providing the highest possible quality services in a timely and efficient manner to the Speaker, Members of Parliament, their staff, Staff of Parliament and other Ancillary Staff.

Standing Orders

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 prescribe the procedure for the functioning of Parliament in an orderly and meaningful manner. It is the most primary source of Parliamentary procedure.

Written Questions

These are questions related to public affairs that are submitted in writing by MPs, and are addressed to a specific subject minister bearing the respective ministerial responsibility. They appear in the Hansard under the title “Written Questions” and are published in all three languages.

Written Question Responses

The subject ministers or their deputies usually provide the answers to written questions orally in Parliament and three supplementary oral questions are subsequently permitted. If a minister to whom the question was addressed to or his deputy fails to be present to provide an answer, the Chief Government whip typically responds to Written Questions on behalf of absent ministers.