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Dinesh insists Manusha tried to intimidate Speaker

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Opposition MPs fear for their safety in the House – JVP

Leader of the House, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday that no member of the House should be allowed to threaten and intimidate the Speaker and action should be taken immediately to control the unparliamentary conduct of the Opposition MPs.

Taking part in the debate on Budget 2022, the leader of the House said that the SJB MPs had displayed their callous disregard for parliamentary traditions, Standing Orders and dignity and decorum in the House last Friday and Saturday.

“We discussed this matter at length at the special party leaders’ meeting. The Speaker is the one who gives leadership to this august assembly. No MP can threaten and intimidate him or any presiding member. All MPs are duty bound to prevent any such threats, acts of intimidation and influences on the Chair. It is also the responsibility of the Leader of the House and the Chief Government Whip to assist the Speaker to conduct parliamentary sessions without hindrance.

“We must ensure the protection of the Speaker. When we scrutinise the video footage of Friday’s session, we can see how MP Manusha Nanayakkara ran to the Chair, threatening the Speaker. That is an unparliamentary act. We must ensure that the Speaker’s word or ruling on any matter is final. That is how a parliament is run anywhere in the world. The Speaker should order an investigation into this matter. We are saddened and hurt by the Opposition’s conduct of threatening the Speaker and thereafter trying to politicise the issue. We should put an end to this conduct of the opposition MPs.

“When there was a countrywide power cut, electricity supply in Parliament, too, was disrupted on Friday. That is a dangerous incident. That, too, should be investigated. We saw how the opposition MPs became jubilant when there was a power outage. We have no problem with the Opposition complaining of any incident to anyone but they should not forget that they cannot absolve themselves of the blame for the incident.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake:

The SJB MPs have complained of an incident where its MP Manusha Nanayakkara was threatened. It is said that MP Nanayakkara fears for his life. He is afraid of moving out of parliament. An MP should be given the opportunity to speak freely without fear. If an MP has to leave Parliament in disguise in fear of being attacked, then one could understand the gravity of the prevailing situation in this country.

“We have seen enough committees, discussions and reports. One a complaint was lodged with the CID over an incident in this House. But nothing came of that probe. No punishment was meted out to any MPs involved in that incident. There have been many committees in the past over incidents that took place in the House but no action has been taken.

“I believe that the Speaker himself can give a ruling on the matter after scrutinising the video footage of the days of the recent t incidents.

“We call on the Speaker not to let this incident be forgotten. We call on him to give a ruling on the matter.

SLPP MP Mohamed Muzammil:

Although the SJB MPs boycotted the Parliament sessions, they did not forget to visit the parliament canteen today. They do not come to the chamber saying that they do not have security. If so, how come they could come to the parliament canteen? Their protest is intended to draw attention of the foreign powers who are against this country.

MP Anura Kumara addresed only one side of the matter. He should have spoken about both sides of the issue.

Time was when attempts on the lives of some MPs in this Parliament. There were knife wielding MPs as well as chilli powder throwers. We also have seen the way the former Speaker handled similar situations.

In the most recent incident, an SJB MP tried to attack the Speaker. It is our duty to protect him. We would not allow anyone to attack you while we are here. I find that the incumbent Speaker is too democratic. He gives more time to the Opposition. We on the government side have lodged a complaint against MP Nanayakkara. We need an urgent probe into that complaint. Today, the debate is to be on the Housing Ministry. Sajith Premadasa boycotted the debate to cover up his frauds as the Minister of Housing in the yahapalana government.

State Minister Shehan Semasinghe:

I call on the Speaker to investigate all incidents seven days prior to the Friday incident. At this rate, we are not sure that SJB MPs may stab the Speaker any time.

State Minister Kanchana Wijesekera:

The Opposition MPs level allegations against officials and others by taking cover behind Parliament privileges. We are ready to debate. Some of those sections expunged from the Hansard are published by the media.

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane:

There have been many similar incidents in the past. The worst time in the known history was the time when Karu Jayasuriya was the Speaker. He did not permit the uttering of the name of the then President in this House. Today, some Opposition MPs even call the incumbent president a mad person in this House. Every MP should be treated respectfully and it is also the duty and responsibility of every MP to maintain his or her dignity. It is unfair to level baseless allegations. There is a need for everyone to conduct themselves according to the Standing Orders.

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga:

The Speaker has always acted in a democratic manner. The SJB tries to show that there is no democracy. The Opposition MPs tried to assault State Minister Kanchana Wijesekera today. If they could come to the canteen of Parliament why can’t they come to the Chamber? It is no surprise that Anura Kumara Dissanayake speaks for the SJB. He has always worked with them.

Matale District MP Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon: Someone in the officials’ box left of the Chair had videoed the incidents in the Chamber and leaked it to the media. That is a threat to security. It should be investigated and action should be taken against the person concerned.

Colombo District MP SAD Jagath Kumara:

Every member in this House is duty bound to respect the Chair. SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka spoke about the Chair in a derogatory manner. Some Opposition MPs behave in a deplorable manner. The Opposition MPs raise points of order unnecessarily. The Opposition is trying to intimidate the Speaker and that is a threat to democracy.

Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena:

There are wrong social media reports about the committee to be appointed by the Speaker.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abywardena:

That committee will comprise members of both the government and the Opposition.

MP D. B. Herath:

When the Opposition MPs tried to attack the Speaker, the Chief Government Whip protected the Speaker. The SJB tries to propagate lies and internationalise them.



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PM blames ‘last administration’ for country’s current crisis

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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Sky News that “the last administration is to blame” for the country’s current crisis.Protesters have clashed with police in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, as people demanded the resignation of the President and new Prime Minister.Demonstrations in the capital have been ongoing for the last two months as the public blames the country’s leadership for corruption and mishandling the economy.The Prime Minister said that the last administration “ran down the economy”.

“We have come to a point where we are bankrupt – which has never happened to Sri Lanka before,” he said in an interview with Sky News following his controversial appointment last week.

“We have no dollars, we have no rupees.”

On whether the President should resign, the veteran politician said it’s a “controversy” as the country is of split opinion.He added: “I suggested that after Sri Lanka passes the 21st amendment, the country should restore the original 19th amendment strengthening parliament – strengthening the powers of the prime minister.

“Then, all party leaders and the president should have a discussion and come to some arrangement on the future.”

Meanwhile, the recent unrest across the country has been sparked amid the country’s worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948, which has been blamed on a combination of COVID, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the president and his brother, until recently the prime minister.

“I can understand the anguish of the protesters – the young and the old,” Mr Wickremesinghe said.

“The young who see their future being taken away, and the old, who are suffering, the middle class, who see their lifestyle collapsing… farmers without fertiliser.

“There are many demonstrations outside police stations, petrol stations and other places. And it shows the anger, the despair, and the hopelessness that the people feel.”

He said that people, at the moment, “can’t bear the burden any longer”.

“We are certainly not in a very stable position,” he said.

Police have now arrested more than 800 people nationwide who are accused of ransacking property, looting and setting fire to MPs’ houses on 9 May.But human rights lawyers say in some cases police are jailing people who were out on the streets watching what was happening, rather than actively taking part in violence.The prime minister went on to say that the country faces a possibility of a food crisis due to the lack of fertiliser.Sri Lanka is near bankruptcy after announcing it had suspended up to $7bn (£5.6bn) in foreign loans due to be repaid this year because of a foreign currency crisis.It has led to limited imports with no gas in petrol stations. Other fuel, cooking gas, medicine and foods are in short supply forcing people to stay in long lines to buy the limited stocks.

“We are feeling the rise in the price of fuel – and we know it will go higher,” he said.

“Our main concern also is that we have not had fertiliser for cultivation, and this coming season, the rice cultivation season will not have the full production.

“Therefore from about August onwards, there is a possibility of a food crisis in Sri Lanka. That’s about the time when the global food crisis will also take place, and we will see how we will survive until about March next year.” – Sky News

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SJB, FSP agree on common agenda

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Focus on abolition of Executive Presidency

BY SHMAINDRA FERNANDO

SJB MP Kabir Hashim, MP, says the main Opposition party and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) have recently agreed on the abolition of the Executive Presidency.Hashim yesterday (20) told The Island that they agreed on empowering Parliament at the expense of the Executive President.The SJB and FSP delegations met at the Opposition Leader’s Office at , Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha this week. The SJB delegation consisted of lawmakers, General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Kabir Hashim, Eran Wickremaratne and Mujubur Rahuman whereas the FSP was represented by Central Committee members, Pubudu Jagoda and Duminda Nagamuwa.The SJB, offshoot of the UNP, secured the recognition of the Election Commission in Feb 2020 while the FSP is yet to be registered as a political party.

Lawmaker Hashim said that the SJB was keen to discuss the current situation with all political parties represented in Parliament and out as part of the overall efforts to reach agreement on a common programme.Referring to the proposals made by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) to resolve the political crisis that would be a prerequisite for addressing the economic downturn, lawmaker Hashim said that the SJB and the FSP agreed on the need for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to agree on a timeline for him to step-down.Responding to The Island queries, one-time UNP Chairman said that the SJB could work together with the FSP on both political and economic issues. The talks took place amidst the FSP, the breakaway faction of the JVP, was consolidating its position as the spearhead of the ongoing protest campaign meant to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down.

MP Hashim said that they agreed to prepare a document meant for future cooperation. Asked whether they have scheduled another meeting with the FSP, the Kegalle District MP said that they were keen to prepare a working document before they next meet for talks.The top SJB spokesperson said that in spite of swearing in UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, the President was on a difficult wicket.Lawmaker Hashim said the SJB was also engaged in talks with the JVP though the deliberations weren’t at official level. “We are proceeding with efforts to finalize a common agenda meant to restore normalcy. We had talks with the BASL, industry leaders as well as civil society,” MP Hashim said.Asked whether the SJB had met Premier Wickremesinghe or sought a meeting with him, MP Hashim said that when Dr. Harsha de Silva raised a spate of issues at hand, especially the recent hard default, the Premier assured the Parliament that party leaders would be fully briefed pertaining to the current situation.Lawmaker Hashim was referring to the first occasion Sri Lanka experienced a hard default as the grace period for the International Sovereign Bonds (ISB) Coupon payment lapsed on May 18. Last month Sri Lanka announced a pre-emptive negotiated default ofall outstanding debt as at April 12.On April 18 the ISB Coupon worth $ 78 million fell due and those had 30 days to obtain “Consent Solicitation” from all ISB holders for payment suspension by May 18.

FSP spokesperson Pubudu Jagoda told The Island that the party discussed the developing situation with some political parties, including the SJB and ’43 Brigade’ led by SJB MP Patali Champika Ranawaka. The FSP delegation comprised Central Committee members, Pubudu Jagoda, Duminda Nagamuwa and Sanjeewa Bandara. MP Patali Champika Ranawaka and Attorney-at-Law Shiral Lakthilake represented the ‘43 Brigade.’Jagoda said that the ’43 Brigade’ was of the view the executive presidential system should be retained with necessary amendments.According to Jagoda, the Eksath Samajawadi Pakshaya and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) agreed that the executive presidency should be abolished. FSP leader Kumar Gunaratnam and Pubudu Jagoda had represented the party whereas Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, and Shanakiyan Rasamanickam represented the TNA.

Jagoda said that the current environment was conducive for building a common agenda that could accommodate the vast majority of political parties represented in Parliament and other groups bent on abolishing the executive presidency.He emphasized the pivotal importance of a common response to what Jagoda termed the government crackdown in Colombo, its suburbs and the provinces where over 1,000 persons had been arrested by the police in connection with the ongoing investigations into mob assaults ignited following unprovoked attacks on those demanding the resignation of the President and the Premier.

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SJB, SLFP decry members switching sides as nine ministers are sworn in

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question all-party tag, allege moves to bribe lawmakers

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmakers, Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara are among nine new Cabinet ministers sworn in yesterday (20).The swearing in ceremony took place at the President’s House as protests continued in front of the Presidential Secretariat demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa.Two of the strongest critics of President Rajapaksa’s handling of investigations into the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre, the former UNP lawmakers joined the government following talks with UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. UNP Leader and its National List member Wickremesinghe received the premiership on 12 May.

The SJB won 54 seats, including seven National Lists seats at the last general election.The SJB lawmakers visited Geneva in early March, 2022 at the beginning of the 49th session of the UNHRC, where Sri Lanka’s human rights record was strongly criticised. They had been also at the forefront of the SJB’s efforts to secure presidential pardon for ex-MP Ranjan Ramanayake, sentenced for contempt of court by the Supreme Court during the yahapalana administration.The other newly-appointed Cabinet ministers are Nimal Siripala de Silva (Ports, Shipping and Aviation), Susil Premjayantha (Education), Keheliya Rambukwella (Health), Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapkse, PC (Justice, Prisons, and Constitutional Reforms), Dr. Ramesh Pathirana (Plantations), Tiran Alles (Public Security) and Nalin Fernando (Trade, Commerce and Food Security). Except Tiran Alles who entered Parliament through the SLPP National List, others contested on the SLPP ticket.With the appointments made yesterday, the number of Cabinet ministers increased to 13. President Rajapaksa on May 14 swore in Prof. G.L. Peiris (Foreign Affairs), Dinesh Gunawardena (Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government), Kanchana Wijesekera (Power and Energy), and Prasanna Ranatunga (Urban Development and Housing). Except for MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena, the rest are SLPP members. But, Gunawardena, too, contested the last general election on the SLPP ticket while his son, Yadamini was accommodated on the SLPP National List.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and SLFP Senior President Prof. Rohana Lakshman yesterday told The Island that their parties were strongly opposed to their members accepting ministerial posts.Both said that they had assured President Rajapaksa and Premier Wickremesinghe of their support for government economic recovery efforts while being in the Opposition. Prof. Lakshman insisted that Nimal Siripala de Silva taking up ministerial portfolio was contrary to the understanding reached with the current dispensation.The SLFP won 14 seats, including one National List seat at the last general election.Of the 13 lawmakers sworn in as ministers, Tiran Alles and Nalin Fernando representing the SLPP entered the Cabinet for the first time.

Among those accommodated in the Cabinet was Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, who was overlooked by the SLPP when the appointment of the original 30-member cabinet in terms of the 19th Amendment took place. Since then Rajapakse has been campaigning for the abolition of the executive presidency and on more than one occasion flayed President Rajapaksa. The lawmaker, in January this year shot off a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping urging him to stop Chinese economic invasion of Sri Lanka. In a 45-point letter to the Chinese leader, the lawmaker alleged that most of the Chinese funded projects had been wasteful and large commissions paid to the corrupt politicians and officials to secure such projects.After the 2020 general election which the SLFP won comfortably securing a 2/3rd majority in Parliament, MP Rajapakse refused to accept the State Ministry for Education. Susil Premjayantha, who accepted that ministry was sacked last early January this year within 24 hours after he criticised the government’s handling of the economy.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem on Thursday (19) accused the government of bribing Opposition lawmakers in a bid to secure their support. MP Hakeem questioned the government strategy while alleging that the original plan was to swear in a Cabinet of 15. Subsequently, the government planned a Cabinet of 18 and then they increased it to 22 ministers.PM Wickremesinghe assured Parliament on Thursday that members of the new Cabinet would not be entitled to minsterial salaries and perks.The Finance Minister has not been appointed. Ali Sabry, PC, served as the Finance Minister briefly after the removal of Basil Rajapaksa. Government efforts to persuade SJB’s Dr. Harsha de Silva, who is an economist to accept the finance portfolio have failed.

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