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Wiggy’s reference to Tamil homeland concept won’t be expunged – Speaker

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‘Members have a right to express views freely’

By Saman Indrajith

Every MP had a right to speak and express his or her views freely and that right was ensured in the House and, therefore, TMTK MP C.V. Wigneswaran’s opening statement with references to the Tamil homeland concept would not be expunged from Hansard, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday.

The Speaker said so when the matter was brought up by Galle District SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara raising a point of order that the speech made by MP Wingeswaran was there in the unedited version of the parliamentary proceedings report. MP Nanayakkara said: “We raised a privilege matter in this House and pointed out that MP Wigneswaran’s statement with regard to Tamil homeland in the North and the East of the country was against the oath we have taken and demanded that it should be expunged. However it is printed in Hansard. This should be revised and the controversial statement expunged.”

Speaker Abeywardena:

That is not a point of order. One MP has made a statement. He did so in keeping with his rights. He has the right to express his views freely. That right should be there. If there is any discrepancy that has to be rectified, then you too can make a speech and express your views. The statement would not be expunged from Hansard.  It does not matter whether the MP is from the government or the Opposition. He or she has that right and you too have the same right to express your views.”

Kurunegala District SLPP MP Shantha Bandara: The Chair promised to look into this matter when the issue was first raised. The controversial statement could be removed from Hansard. There is such a tradition that whenever an MP makes a statement against the Constitution, the chair is empowered to remove it from Hansard. Therefore, we request the Speaker to remove this reference with regard to the traditional Tamil homeland concept.

Rauff Hakeem: Parliamentary powers and privileges Act has ensured that each member has the freedom of speech in Parliament. The Speaker in keeping with the Act made an order. I think that the Speaker is perfectly right in his order.

SJB Kurunegala District MP Nalin Bandara: We took an oath on the first day here that we would not support separatism directly or indirectly. But within an hour after taking that oath MP Wingeswaran violated it. He should be expelled from this House. Does the Speaker think that the oath has no meaning?

Speaker Abeywardena: It is not a point of order.



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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