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Erstwhile comrade urges Anura Kumara, Tilvin to quit like Ranil

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) National List nominee Mohommed Muzammil yesterday (11) said that JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and General Secretary Tilvin Silva, too, should quit in the wake of the latest electoral debacle.

Pointing out UNP Chief Ranil Wickremesinghe, at last quit the party leadership having accepted responsibility for the worst ever defeat suffered under his leadership, Muzammil urged the JVPers to follow Wickremesinghe’s example.

Muzammil who represents the breakaway JVP faction, the National Freedom Front (NFF) has been accommodated on the SLPP National List in terms of the agreement between the two parties.

Addressing the media at the Pita Kotte party office, Muzammil said that the JVP leader and its General Secretary should be ashamed to continue in their positions after the party was reduced to three lawmakers, including one National List member after virtually co-habiting with the previous UNP led regime.

The JVP group in the last parliament comprised six members, including two National List MPs.

The JVP leader and its General Secretary owed an explanation to those who genuinely loved and respected the party.

Muzammil said that he was among the 39 member strong JVP group in parliament (2004-2010). Having contested on the UPFA ticket, 39 JVPers were elected to parliament; Muzammil recalled adding that in terms of JVP-UPFA agreement, the party received five National List slots. “We gave up two slots willingly as the UPFA faced difficulty in accommodating some of those who had been left out of the original list,” Muzammil said. The incumbent JVP leader and its General Secretary had weakened the party so much it ended up with just three members in parliament.

The JVP contested under Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB).

Muzammil pointed out that the SLPP was able to submit its National List nominees to the Election Commission soon after the issuance of preferential votes. Of the 29 National List slots available, the SLPP received 17 slots. Muzammil said that both the JVP and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) were yet to decide on their National List nominees at the time the media briefing was held.

He said that the parliament was going to meet on August 20 without Ranil Wickremesinghe who had been there since 1977. The former JVPer pointed out that the UNP had finally realized funding sources and international backing were immaterial if the voting public deserted a political party.

Declaring that the UNP had been politically dead, Muzammil pointed out that Sajith Premadasa’s SJB, too, should be seriously concerned as of those 5.5 mn who had voted for Premadasa at the presidential election only 2.8 exercised their franchise at the parliamentary poll.

The NFF fielded 12 contestants on the SLPP ticket. Of them, five were elected (Wimal Weerawansa/Colombo, Jayantha Sanaraweera/Kalutara, Nimal Piyatissa/Nuwara Eliya, Gamini Waleboda/Ratnapura and Uddika Premaratne/Anuradhapura). In addition to them, NFF secured one National List slot (Mohommed Muzammil).

In the last parliament, the NFF group comprised five members. Of them, Weerakumara Dissanayake a few years ago switched his allegiance to then President Maithripala Sirisena.

Dissanayake failed in his bid to retain his seat on the SLPP ticket.

Muzammil said that in spite of challenges, the NFF certainly did better than at the last general election.

Pointing out that the NFF was deprived of a National List slot at the 2015 general election; the deft debater in Sinhala said that those who had been engaged in trickery learnt an unforgettable lesson in 2020. Serious setback suffered by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the Northern and Eastern regions also proved beyond doubt that the vast majority of people were not interested in communal politics. The political environment was rapidly changing and it would be only a matter of time, destructive elements were eradicated, politically.

 

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20A passed at first reading stage amidst protests from SJB

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By Saman Indrajith

 

The 20th Amendment Bill was passed yesterday in Parliament at the first reading stage amidst protests from the SJB.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry presented the Bill to the House.

SJB members who were wearing black armbands and badges with ‘No to 20’ printed on them shouted. They held placards denouncing the 20th Amendment.

 Some SJB MPs were seen coming from their desks to the Well of the House, and then the government MPs too came down and shouted, ‘Yes to 20’.

Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando and his deputy Kushan Jayaratne were seen standing before the Mace

 Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardane moved a number of Orders under the Special Commodity Levy Act for debate.

Seconding the move, Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Employment, Business Development and Underutilised State Resources Development State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said that the Opposition should have raised their concerns elsewhere.

“They can now go before court and express their concerns. They have one more option. That is to secure a two-third majority in Parliament and defeat the Bill. Without doing any of them they shout here to disrupt sittings and thereby waste public funds. We remember how they behaved when they were in power; they brought in several no-confidence motions. They did so after suspending the Standing Orders of the House. The then Speaker Karu Jayasuriya suspended Standing Orders to allow JVP MP Vijitha Herath to move a motion. We do not act in such undemocratic manner. People have given us a mandate to do away with the 19th Amendment. We act according to that mandate.”

SJB Kegalle District MP Kabir Hashim:

There are two groups in this House. One group ruled this country for 20 years. We were in power for five years.

If they say that they need more powers to develop this country that is a joke.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said the TV camera was not focussed on MP Hashim.

SJB MPs shouted demanding that the camera be focussed on him

MP Hashim:

If this is the manner the government ensuring the rights of MPs before the 20th Amendment, what will happen to us after it becomes law?

MP Hashim:

Have you been able to bring down the price of a single commodity after coming to power? When you came to power in 1994 you promised to abolish the executive presidency, and do away with the open economic policies. You did not do so. Mahinda Rajapaksa too came to power on the same promises. But his government did not honour thems. Today, we are staging this protest to save the powers of the Prime Minister not for our sake. Do you remember the Subha and Yasa story. A palace guard and the king exchanged their places for the fun of it. But the guard did not give back the throne to the king. He remained in the position and even killed the King. The same will happen here when the 20th Amendment is passed.

Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage:

This is a government of the people. We will not do anything against people’s aspirations. We uphold democracy. During the times when you were in the government you did not hold elections. There are many MPs in the opposition today who want to join our government. By this morning there were 17 opposition MPs who wanted to join us. We will get 20 MPs from the Opposition to secure the passage of this Bill. You do not worry about saving the powers of the Prime Minister. We will see to that. You passed the 19th Amendment to prevent the Rajapaksas from coming to power. The Opposition paints a dismal picture of the 20th Amendment. Former Minister Hashim laments about the prices of commodities. Tell me the price of a coconut. Tell me. You cannot because you do not know. You do not know because you are living in luxury away from people.  Today a coconut is Rs 70 in the market. You are not with the people that is why you lost the election.

Industry Minister Wimal Weerawansa raising a point of order said that MPs could not demand that the camera be focussed on them. “Whenever there is a protest in the House, the camera should focus either on the Speaker or the Mace. That is the procedure. It was introduced by the former Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara.”

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa:

We register our opposition and frustration over the 20th Amendment. This amendment has provisions that will erode democratic values.

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Speaker berates opposition for resorting to harangue at question time

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By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday (22) reprimanded the Opposition MPs for wasting the time of the House. He said that MPs should not make speeches when raising questions listed in the Order Paper because only one hour had been allotted for the question time.

He said so when Ratnapura District SJB MP Hesha Withanage raised supplementary questions and made a lengthy speech.

Withanage demanded to know from the Prime Minister the number of Cabinet ministers in governments since 1978.

Responding on behalf of the Prime Minister Chief of the Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that there had been nine parliaments since 1978 and there had been different numbers of Cabinet ministers in those government. He said that the first parliament in 1978 had 25 cabinet ministers and the second parliament in 1989 had 21 cabinet ministers. The third parliament in 1994 had 23 cabinet and 31 deputy ministers with a total of 54. The fourth parliament of 2000 had 42 cabinet and 36 deputy ministers with a total of 78. The Fifth Parliament of 2001 had 25 cabinet, 27 non-cabinet and eight deputy ministers with a total of 60. The sixth parliament of 2004 had 31 cabinet, three non-cabinet and 31 deputy ministers with a total of 65. The seventh parliament of 2010 had 37 cabinet 39 deputy ministers with a total of 76 ministers. The eighth parliament of 2015 had 45 cabinet and 38 state ministers making a total of 87 ministers. The eighth parliament of 2019 had 16 cabinet and 38 state ministers with a total of 54. The ninth parliament of 2020 has 27 cabinet and 40 state ministers with a total of 67.

The first and second parliaments of 1978 and 1989 had one female cabinet minister each. Third parliament of 1994 had three cabinet and five deputy female ministers with a total eight female members. The Fourth parliament of 2000 had four female cabinet ministers. The fifth parliament of 2001 had only one female cabinet minister. The sixth parliament of 2004 had three female cabinet ministers. The seventh parliament of 2010 had two female cabinet ministers and one female deputy minister post making it three female ministers. The eighth parliament of 2015 had a total number of six female ministerial posts – two cabinet, two state and two deputy posts.  The eighth parliament of 2019 had one female cabinet minister. The ninth parliament of 2020 has one female cabinet minister and two female state ministers with a total of three.

The highest percentage of female ministers was in 1994 with 13.04% and the lowest was in 2020 with 3.7 percent, Minister Fernando said.

Responding to the question the percentage of female ministers in the present government, Minister Fernando said it was 3.6. He said the figure was the same as the percentage of female representation in Parliament.

When the time came for the supplementary questions, MP Withanage said that if the funds spent on the number of Cabinet ministers since 1978 had been spent for the development, the country would have been in a better position. Then he lamented that the percentage of female members in parliament did not tally with the population’s female percentage. Thereafter, he said that under the previous government a ceiling on the number of Cabinet ministers had been imposed and the incumbent government was planning to remove it. He asked how the government would justify the proposed increase in the number of ministers.

Speaker Abeywardena intervened and said the MPs could not be allowed to make speeches making use of time allocated for questions. “You should ask only supplementary question. This cannot be permitted. We have to give consideration to the time. We move on to the next item in the order paper.”

S.M. Marikkar raising a point of order said that the government Cabinet, state and deputy ministerial posts to serve their people. The Opposition MPs had only one opportunity and that was by raising the people’s questions. “That is our right. Do not deprive us of our right,” MP Marikkar said.

The Speaker said that his concern too was to ensure the MPs’ rights and for that purpose time had to be managed.

Minister Fernando said that MP Withanage had not raised a single supplementary question and made a speech instead and, therefore, if the latter could raise a specific question the government was ready to answer them.

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20A challenged in SC

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A petition was filed in the Supreme Court by Indika Gallage, a lawyer, yesterday, challenging the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The petitioner has requested the Court to declare that a referendum and a two-thirds majority in Parliament are needed for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

Gallage has made the Attorney General the respondent. The petition claims that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution violates Articles 01, 03, 04 (d,) 12.1, 14 (1) g, 27 (2) and 27 (3.)

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