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.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam
The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.
Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.
A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.
The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.
According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.
The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.
DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
By Norman Palihawadane
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.
Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.
The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.
Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.
The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.
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