By Saman Indrajith
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena informed the House yesterday (24) that the privilege of making special statements on matters of urgent public interest would be available to only one leader of recognised political parties including the leader of the Opposition as per the provisions of the Standing Orders.
MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam was the leader of AITC but he could not be permitted to make a statement as the matter was sub judice, the Speaker said.
NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that they disagreed with the ruling of the Speaker. “We have been in this parliament for a long time and know of instances where the Speakers permitted party leaders to make special statements on issues of national importance and raise questions without any restrictions. I would like to know how you impose this restriction without even discussing with the party leaders.
The government sits on the right. The opposition sits on the left. The speaker’s chair is in the middle. But you are leaning to the right side. Do not take this opportunity away from party leaders. There have been three sitting weeks. So far I have not availed myself of the opportunity to make a special statement. That does not mean I will abandon my right to avail the opportunity. I hope to raise this matter at the next party leaders’ meeting.”
Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that not all parties in the Opposition had been allowed to make statements under the previous government. “We were not given that opportunity. The then Opposition got all the days for themselves without leaving us any. Besides, the matter with regard to MP Ponnambalam was different. It is not permitted because it is sub judice. MP Dissanayake’s observations are on a different matter.”
TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran: There is nothing sub judice in this matter. There is nothing before any court pending over the matter. The Speaker has no discretion to make such a ruling.
AITC MP Ponnambalam: Please allow me to make this statement. Either allow me to make the statement or suspend sittings so that we could have a party leaders’ meeting.
Leader of the House Minister Gunawardena: The Speaker has given a ruling. This matter cannot be raised, today. The party leaders meet on Friday and we can discuss the matter there.
Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella: The case in question is over. Someone has misled the Speaker.
SJB MP Harin Fernando: I bring to the notice of the Speaker the Standing Order 27.2. There is no restriction on the number of speeches made by party leaders. There is no reference stipulating the number of speeches.
Leader of the House Minister Gunawardena: The Speaker has given a ruling. If the Opposition is willing to allow him to make a statement then there is no problem. We have no intention of depriving MP Ponnambalam of his right. The party leaders are meeting tomorrow, we can decide it there. Otherwise, we have the option to put it to the House. We are ready. Put it to the House.
Justice Minister Ali Sabry: Standing Order 76.1 has clearly provided for an occasion like this. It says the Speaker in Parliament and the Chair in any committee shall be responsible for the observance of the rules of order in Parliament and Committee respectively and their decision upon any point of order shall not be open to appeal and shall not be reviewed by Parliament except upon a substantive motion made after notice. You as the Speaker have given a ruling. They could bring in a substantive motion to put the matter before the House. Otherwise, you review it at the party leaders’ meeting.
22A: Jayasumana asks govt. to stick to SC ruling, warns against moves detrimental to unitary status
Dissident SLP MP Prof. Channa Jayasumana has said that the government will not be allowed to use the proposed 22 Amendment to introduce anything detrimental to the country.
The Anuradhapura District MP said that it would be advisable for the ruling party to refrain from proposing amendments at the committee stage, other than what were authorised by the Supreme Court.
The Parliament is scheduled to debate the 22 Amendment tomorrow (06) and the day after (07).
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bill seeking the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution could be adopted with a two-thirds majority in the House, though some clauses would require a nationwide referendum.
The rebel MP said that the clauses, inconsistent with the Constitution, should be left out of the Bill.
Responding to The Island queries, the former State Minister said that they would defeat whatever attempts to undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status at a time the country was struggling to cope up with a deteriorated economic situation.
The lawmaker said that it would be nothing but treachery to allow opportunists to exploit the recent developments. Prof. Jayasumana intends to take up the issue at hand with the 13-member rebel group, ahead of the two-day debate.
“Obviously, the SLPP is divided over the issue at hand,” the academic said, adding that the election of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, as the President, to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term, highlighted sharp divisions within the party over policy and strategy.
The SLPP won 145 seats at the last parliamentary election, though over 20 members have now declared they wouldn’t follow dictates of the party.
Prof. Jayasumana said that he publicly discussed the issue at hand recently following a gathering at Horowpothana, Morawewa.
Meanwhile, Ven. Professor Induragare Dharmarathana Thera said that the Jathika Mahajana Sabhawa would launch a protest campaign today (05) at the Independence Square, at 8.30 am.
The Ven. Thera alleged that they feared an attempt would be made to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that was enacted way back in the late 80s to appease those pushing for division of the country, on ethnic lines (SF)
State FM: Treasury needs to increase revenue by Rs 400 bn
The Finance Ministry yesterday (04) quoted State Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya as having said that the Treasury faced the daunting task of increasing the revenue by Rs 400 bn.
Siyambalapitiya said that both the government and the Opposition had acknowledged the urgent need to enhance revenue. The Minister said that their efforts to save foreign exchange by restricting imports had been quite successful and that the government had been able to reduce imports by 25 percent, in July this year, when compared with figures for the same month in the previous year.
GL fires broadside at SLPP-RW govt., calls for accountability
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Dissident SLPP lawmaker Prof. G.L. Peiris has alleged that the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe administration has allocated 320 vehicles for the recently appointed 38 State Ministers and their staff.
In addition, those who had been appointed District Coordinators had also been allocated vehicles, the former External Affairs Minister told the media on Monday (03). The ruling SLPP secured the lion’s share of state ministerial portfolios, as well as lucrative appointments as District Coordinators, the former minister said.
Addressing the media at the rebel group’s office, at Nawala, the SLPP National List MP and the party Chairman flayed what he called the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government for squandering taxpayers’ money to appease a section of the Parliament at a time the vast majority of people were struggling to make ends meet.
Pointing out that in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the government could appoint 30 cabinet and 40 non-cabinet rankers, Prof. Peiris said that it was only a matter of time before the government increased the number of Cabinet ministers to 30. At the moment, the Cabinet comprised 18 ministers, including Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
Prof. Peiris said that in the wake of the Parliament approving the Social Security Contribution Levy Bill, the cost of living would go up further. The Parliament recently announced the Treasury intended to collect Rs 140 bn, annually, through the implementation of the new Bill.
The one-time Education Minister explained the current economic difficulties the student populationis facing. The retired top academic expressed serious concern over quite a number of students giving up education.
Commenting on the inordinate delay in conducting Local Government elections, Prof. Peiris alleged that the government feared facing the electorate for obvious reasons. Declaring that the Election Commission now had the power to call for Local Government polls, Prof. Peiris urged the EC to ensure the public received an opportunity to exercise their franchise.
“The EC shouldn’t disappoint the public,” the SLPP Chairman said, declaring their intention to move Court in case the government sought to further postpone the much-delayed Local Government polls. Prof. Peiris stressed their determination to vigorously oppose the government strategy to indefinitely put off Local Government polls. This should be examined against the backdrop of none of the Provincial Councils having elected members for several years now.
At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris declared that the Opposition scored a significant victory when President Ranil Wickremesinghe was compelled to rescind his controversial Gazette notification on the setting up of High Security Zones in Colombo. The President wouldn’t have done so if not for heavy attacks mounted by all concerned. Prof. Peiris paid a glowing tribute to the media for relentlessly pursuing the issue until President Wickremesinghe had no option but to annul the dictatorial law. If the government strategy succeeded, Colombo city would have been transformed to a cantonment, the former Law Professor said, flaying Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena’s recent declaration that the electronic media needed to be regulated.
Referring to the recent warning issued by the Public Administration Ministry, to public servants, that they would be appropriately dealt with over social media posts/statements, Prof. Peiris said such a strategy wouldn’t work now. Reiterating the national economy was in such a desperate state, Prof. Peiris said that serious allegations, pertaining to procurement of coal for the Lakvijaya Coal-fired Power Plant, as well as crude oi,l couldn’t be suppressed.
Responding to a query on Sri Lanka’s position at the ongoing 51 sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council, the former Foreign Minister faulted the government for arresting anti-government, activists under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Prof. Peiris said that in his former capacity as the External Affairs Minister he assured the UNHRC, in June this year, that the PTA wouldn’t be used while the government undertook a comprehensive study on a new security law. But, the government indiscriminately used the PTA in cases not related terrorism at all, Prof. Peiris said, questioning the rationale in Premier Dinesh Gunawardena’s declaration that those arrested in terms of the PTA wouldn’t be charged under the same law.
The Premier owed an explanation, the former minister said, pointing out the UNHRC was concerned over the utilization of the PTA.
The former minister said that if the UNHRC adopted a new resolution in respect of Sri Lanka, it could have a detrimental effect on ongoing negotiations with the IMF, the GSP plus as well as efforts to attract foreign investment. Prof Peiris insists: “What we really need is adequate investment, not more loans.”
Prof. Peiris said that the National Council was nothing but another talk shop. The government could have proved its sincerity by giving the leadership of parliamentary watchdog committees, the COPE and the COPA, to Opposition lawmakers, the MP said. Instead, the SLPP was hell-bent on suppressing those who dared to dissent, regardless of the consequences, the former Minister said, vowing to push for the restoration of parliamentary democracy.
22A: Jayasumana asks govt. to stick to SC ruling, warns against moves detrimental to unitary status
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