PM advised to hold off on bill

national September 28, 2013 00:00

By The Nation

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Abhisit warns that she might be held responsible if Court rules against it

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday called on the government to delay the charter amendment bill as it was pending outcome of a judicial review.
“Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra should wait instead of risking the consequences by submitting the bill for royal endorsement,” he said. 
Abhisit explained that Yingluck had 20 days to review the matter after Parliament votes for the final passage of the bill today. 
He warned that if Yingluck decides to seek the King’s approval, she might end up having to take responsibility if the Constitutional Court ruling says the bill was unconstitutional.
He said he expected the high court to issue a ruling within 20 days, adding that if the judicial review takes longer, then the court might issue instructions on how the bill’s submission to the Palace can be delayed. 
He also hinted at the chance of a censure debate being launched in November, adding that the debate would likely focus on alleged corruption and incompetence. 
Today, Parliament is scheduled to convene and vote on the final passage of the bill, which is designed to turn the Senate into a fully elected upper chamber. The opposition contends that such a transformation is unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Senator Wicharn Sirichai-Ekawat has issued an open letter calling for the postponement of today’s parliamentary vote on the bill. His argument is that such a vote cannot take place before the high court rules on the issue. 
Yingluck, meanwhile, has declined to comment on the issue, only saying that she will attend the parliamentary voting session after she has completed inspecting flood-hit areas. 
Pheu Thai MP Samart Kaewmechai said the Democrats had no legal basis to try to suspend the vote.
The Constitution’s Article 154 prescribes for legislative voting on an Act of Parliament, but the vote in question is related to charter amendment, he said.
“The Democrats are trying in every way to prevent the vote from taking place, but they have no justification,” he said, adding that he expected the final passage of the bill by today and that Yingluck would submit it for royal endorsement within 20 days without delay.
Should the judicial review turn out to be unfavourable, then the prime minister could not be held accountable as this was a legislative issue, he said. 
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court yesterday decided to launch its review on two complaints related to the charter-amendment bill.
The complaints, filed separately by senators and by the Democrats, contend that the proponents of the bill were using unconstitutional means to alter the charter’s intent.
In their complaint, the senators said Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont and Senate President Nikom Wairatpanij had conspired to overthrow the political system. Their argument also referred to the bullying tactics being used to force through a vote that would transform the Senate and scrap elected senators. 
The Democrats, meanwhile, charge that Somsak and 312 pro-bill lawmakers are disregarding the prescribed procedures to amend the charter.
The high court voted 5:1 in favour of reviewing the complaints. Judge Chut Chonlaworn, who cast the only dissenting vote, said only the attorney-general had the power to petition for the high court’s ruling on the matter. 
Meanwhile, the court chose to reject ex-senator Ruangkrai Leekitwattana’s complaint, which accused the Democrats of unnecessarily litigating the bill.
All three complaints cited the Constitution’s Article 68 as a basis for the judicial review.
The opposition’s complaints blame the bill’s proponents for trying to change the spirit of the basic law, while Ruangkrai contends the opposition is trying to derail the charter change using unconstitutional means.
The court threw out a fourth complaint on grounds that it cited Article 69 instead of 68.