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PM: MPs appointed to parliament committees can elect chairpersons

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By Saman Indrajith

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday told Parliament that the MPs appointed as members of parliamentary committees including the Committee on Public Finance (PFC), Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) and Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) could elect the Chairmen of the respective committees at their own will. 

 The Prime Minister said so while responding to a query raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa on the Premier’s stance on the appointment of the chairman for the three committees. MP Premadasa made the query after the matter was brought up by SJB Kurunegala District MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha. 

 Jayamaha raising a point of order said that under standing order 103 the Speaker should appoint the chairman to each Special Committee. He said that it was the tradition in the Parliament to appoint chairman of the COPA and COPE from the Opposition. He queried if the newly elected Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena would follow the tradition.

The Speaker in response said that those committees mentioned by MP Jayamaha were not Special Committees.

MP Jayamaha:

At least would you follow the tradition in the Parliament?  

Speaker Abeywardena:

“They are not Select Committees. So, the Chairmen should be elected by the members of the respective committees. 

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said that following the British Parliamentary tradition, the chairmen of COPA, COPE and Committee on Public Finance (PFC) were appointed from the Opposition side members. “Would the same tradition be followed now?”  

Speaker Abeywardena observed that the matter could be decided at the Select Committee. 

The Opposition Leader queried what the stance of the Prime Minister Rajapaksa was on the issue.

Leader of the House and Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the stance of the Prime Minister was that the appointments should be made as instructed by the Speaker. Those Committees consisted of members not only from the government side but from the other parties in the opposition. So the Opposition Leader could not make decisions himself and he should consult others.

Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that he contested to be the Chairman of the PFC while he was in the opposition during the Good Governance government. He added that the post was not given to the opposition but to M. A. Sumanthiran. “That was the ground reality,” Minister Gunawardena said.     

State Minister Nimal Lanza said that the appointment of the Chairmen to the COPE, COPA and PFC was the right of their members. He asked the Opposition Leader to allow the MPs to exercise their right. 

 State Minister S. B. Dissanayake said that during the Good Governance government the chairman of COPA was Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna. The tradition had been breached by the Good Governance government. 

The Opposition Leader attempted to speak further on the matter but the Speaker prevented him doing so, stating that he would not allow wasting the time of the Parliament any more. 

“My query is if the tradition should be followed,” the Opposition Leader queried. 

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that such a tradition as the Opposition Leader said had not been followed in Parliament. He added that at times the chairman position had been granted to the Opposition and sometimes to the government side.



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Fuel crisis: Key CPC facility opened for VIPs, friends as public transport shrinks

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya trade unionist Ananda Palitha yesterday (01) alleged that members of Parliament, Chairmen of various government institutions, and other politically connected persons, continued to obtain unlimited petrol and diesel from the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) facility at Kolonnawa.

The former CPC employee declared that the powers that be had transformed the Kolonnawa depot into a special facility to cater to the needs of the politically influential.

Those who touted the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept had created a special category while almost the entire nation suffered due to the unprecedented disruption of fuel supplies, Palitha said.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera and CPC Chairman Sumith Wijesinha didn’t answer their phones.

Ananda Palitha said that none of those who had been given access to the Kolonnawa depot came under essential services. “Why should lawmakers, whatever their status in society, be given access to the special facility when they aren’t included among essential services,”

Ananda Palitha asked.The SJB activist said that the government was struggling to maintain public transport after having repeatedly promised to sustain.

The trade unionist alleged that though they brought the clandestine operation at Kolonnawa to the attention of the government, it continued unabated. Barrels full of fuel had been taken from Kolonnawa, he said, among the beneficiaries were owners of V8 and other super luxury vehicles.

Ananda Palitha said that the Opposition should have taken up this issue vigorously.

Responding to another query, Ananda Palitha said that according to information available to them, Ceypetco had approximately 3,000 mt of diesel, 2,500 mt of petrol 95,600-700 mt of petrol 92 and was not in a position at least to meet the requirement of the essential services.

“The government is yet to come up with a plan to obtain petrol and diesel,” Ananda Palitha said, urging the government to take the public into confidence.

Palitha pointed out that the police had carried out numerous raids, targeting those who hoarded diesel and petrol, whereas a primary fuel depot that was not supposed to pump fuel for outsiders, engaged in business. The government should be ashamed of this situation, the trade union leader said, pointing out the country was heading for chaos.

The Island yesterday afternoon brought Ananada Palitha’s allegations to the notice of Lalith Weeratunga, Senior Advisor to the President,Gotabaya Rajapaksa

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Energy cooperation sought from Saudi Arabia on urgent basis

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has requested Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulelah A. A. Orkobi, to facilitate Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed to visit Saudi Arabia from July 02-05 as Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka.The request was made when the envoy called on Prof Peiris at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday (30).

At the meeting, Foreign Minister Peiris briefed the Saudi envoy on the current economic situation, including fuel shortage and its negative impact on all sectors in Sri Lanka. Prof. Peiris sought avenues for energy cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an utmost urgent matter.

Charge d’ Affaires of Saudi Embassy Orkobi, emphasized the importance attached to the Sri Lanka – Saudi bilateral relationship and assured all possible support to Sri Lanka, at this juncture.

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‘Halting assistance’: Japanese envoy reassures Prez

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Japanese Ambassador Hideaki Mizukoshi yesterday (01) met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa against the backdrop of reports that Japan wouldn’t provide financial assistance due to the possibility of such being mismanaged.A section of the media quoted the Japanese envoy having said so at a meeting with a group of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members during a recent visit to the north.

Subsequent to the meeting at the President’s House, the President’s Office said that the Japanese envoy reassured the President of their support to the proposed IMF programme with Sri Lanka and bilateral development assistance.

However, the Japanese embassy didn’t issue a statement on the meeting though it regularly issued statements on a range of issues.

Recently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Japan Sanjiv Gunasekera suddenly quit the top diplomatic posting. The government has nominated former Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage as Gunasekera’s successor.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office has sought a clarification from the Japanese embassy regarding the controversial declaration and received an assurance that the envoy didn’t say so at the meeting with the TNA (SF)

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