Parliament | Daily News

Parliament

Post of Opp. Leader: Speaker to announce final decision within this week

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told Parliament that he would come to a final decision and announce the post of Opposition Leader within this week.

The Speaker at the same time agreed to allocate more time and grant more space in Parliamentary Committees for the Joint Opposition to be fair with the numbers it is representing.

The Joint Opposition members were all-out in Parliament yesterday to win the post of Opposition Leader to their group, stating that they had the support of 70 MPs. However, both the JVP and the TNA were against JO’s request, stating that the UPFA could not represent the Government and the Opposition at the same time.

Following a lengthy argument in the House, the Speaker said that he has to consult the Party Leaders and legal advisers before making a final decision on the post of Opposition Leader. He added that he still had to sort out two pertinent issues, but did not elaborate what they were.

The JO MPs continuously argued that the mantle of the Opposition Leader’s post was given to UPFA MP Nimal Siripala de Silva during the interim period of the government after January 8, 2015 and the Government could follow the same precedent now.

However, this argument was countered by the JVP, stating that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was not in force during the interim period and therefore the Constitution then lacked a specific definition as to what a recognized political party is.

Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella commented that Parliament only accepts recognized political parties and that the JO was only a “clique.”

TNA MP M A Sumanthiran, expressing TNA’s position on the issue in the absence of TNA Leader R Sampanthan, said if the JO wished to be the real Opposition, its members should leave the UPFA. “The Leader of the Opposition post could not be held by a person who belonged to a party that had members in the Cabinet. The UPFA Chairman, its General Secretary and over 20 members are members of the Cabinet and are part of the Executive. It would be a mockery to have yet another UPFA MP sitting as the Opposition Leader as well,” he stressed.

JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake demanded that the entire Cabinet should first resign if the UPFA is to get the post of Opposition Leader, because there could no longer be a national government after that. “The number of ministers was increased under the pretext of forming a national government. If the UPFA is given the Opposition Leader post, then the number of ministers should be limited to 30 under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution,” he argued.

He also pointed out that giving the mantle of the Opposition Leader to the UPFA could set a bad precedent that the future rulers may exploit to retain the control of both the Government as well as the Opposition. At the same time, he reminded the House that JO’s de facto leader former President Mahinda Rajapsaka had not voted against the Government at any crucial vote in Parliament.

Former President Rajapaska, his brother Chamal Rajapaksa and his son Namal Rajapsaka were all not present in the House even yesterday, when the House took up the matter of Opposition Leader.

JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, rising to a point of order at the commencement of the business of the House, requested for a fresh determination of the Speaker on the post of Opposition Leader, considering the latest changes in the number of heads in the Government and the Opposition benches.

MP Gunawardena in his speech, raged against UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera, stating that the Speaker could not be dictated by an “incompetent, ignorant and inefficient General Secretary of a party.” He made this comment with reference to a reply letter of Amaraweera to the Speaker in which he had informed that the UPFA did not wish any change in the post of Opposition Leader.

“This is an issue that distorts Parliament democracy. You admitted that the ground situation had changed when we met you in person,” MP Gunawardena told the Speaker. He argued that the JO group led by former President Mahinda Rajapaka, was the largest group in the Opposition.

MP Dullas Allahapperuma noted that 70 MPs of the JO represent 31 percent of the total 225 MPs in Parliament, while 16 TNA MPs represent only 7 percent.

However, Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara countered this argument by stating that some MPs who claim to represent the Opposition were seen with the President when inaugurating various projects in Polonnaruwa recently. “Your faith is questionable. Before you demand your stake in Parliament, clearly identify which side you belong to,” he told the UPFA MPs.

UNP MP Mujibar Rahuman pointed out that the entire issue of Opposition Leader was a result of an internal rift of the UPFA and there was no point in wasting Parliament’s time over it. “If you wish to claim the Opposition Leader post, the best thing to do is to press the President and your General Secretary to sit in the Opposition,” he commented.

UNP MP Thushara Indunil said the UNP back benchers would also cross over to the Opposition and demand the rights and privileges given to an opposition group if this trend continued.

Chief Opposition Whip and JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake suggested that the JO could rightfully claim the Opposition Leader post if they, who claim to have 70 MPs, grab power of the UPFA Executive Committee defeating the 23 members aligned with the Government.

UPFA MPs Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Chandima Weerakkody, Udaya Gammanpila, Bandula Gunawardena, Nimal Lansa, Sisira Jayakody, Arundika Fernando, Tharaka Balasuriya, Susil Premajayantha and John Seneviratne also joined in bolstering MP Gunawardena’s call to give them the Opposition Leader post.

UPFA MP Kumara Welgama however, admitted plainly that there was no party called the ‘Joint Opposition’ and that he was speaking as an SLFP MP. “After August 17 polls, my name was proposed as the Opposition Leader and my friend MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage’s name was proposed as the Chief Opposition Whip, but this was not accepted then,” he commented.

 


Proposal to offer Rs. 200,000 allowance to monitoring MPs not approved: Kiriella

A proposal to offer Rs 200,000 allowance to Government MPs who are monitoring development projects, was not approved at the Cabinet yesterday, Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella said.

He made this comment in reply to NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa who charged that the Government had presented Cabinet papers to offer Rs 200,000 special allowance to “monitoring MPs of the Government.”

The Minister replied that the said Cabinet paper was not approved yesterday. The minister further said the UNP Group yesterday, unanimously decided to reject any salary increments to MPs and Ministers.

However, he claimed the issue over the MPs salaries came up due to a Parliamentary Resolution adopted on November 23, 2006, which linked them to the Judges’ salaries. “When the issue was discussed on July 17, all party leaders had been in agreement with the point that the MPs’ salaries must be increased on par with those of the judges,” he stated.

MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena said that matters pertaining to salaries, health insurance and pensions of MPs were discussed at the Party Leaders’ Meeting, but a final decision was not reached. “It is the Government’s prerogative to take a final decision. We in the Opposition cannot force anything on the Government,” he commented.

 


‘Highest standards followed by foreign countries to combat corruption will be endorsed’

The highest standards followed by foreign countries to combat corruption would be endorsed by Sri Lankan jurisdiction as well, State Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P. Perera said yesterday.

Joining the Second Reading of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendments) Bill, State Minister Perera observed that whoever objects or is intimidated by passing of the Bill, would be involved in rackets, bribery and corruption.

State Minister Perera also observed that legislation operating in Sri Lanka must be upgraded to the standards of international laws, to which the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (MAICM) Act would contribute immensely.

Perera pointed out that the amendments would provide Sri Lanka a strong international cooperation, mutual assistance for investigations concerning criminal offenses relating to computer systems and data, evidence collection in electronic forms of criminal offenses.

He pointed out that the Asia/Pacific Organization on Money Laundering too had recommended that Sri Lanka upgrade its laws in keeping with the international law.

Speaking further, Perera said that the Yahapalana Government had proven that it was dedicated to bring in anti-corruption laws by presenting amendments to the MAICM Act of 2002. He pointed out that the Act provided for significant provisions. He also pointed out that passing of the Bill would facilitate the accelerated process of combating bribery and corruption, taken up by the Yahapalana Government.

“This Act terrifies persons who are involved in crime and corruption. Suspects would no longer be able to find refuge in other countries, dodging investigations carried out locally. This Act is extremely progressive,” Perera further observed.

MAICM Act facilitates cooperation between Sri Lanka and other selected jurisdictions in the exchange of suspects and witnesses. It provides for the services of documents on such persons, the examination of witnesses, obtaining of evidence, executing requests for search and seizure, temporarily transferring a person in custody to appear as a witness and the location of the proceeds of crime among others.


Vijayakala’s controversial statement: Speaker awaiting AG’s report

Speaker of the House Karu Jayasuriya yesterday, informed the House that he had not yet received the report by the Attorney General with reference to the controversial speech made by MP Vijayakala Maheshwaran recently in Jaffna.

Answering to a question raised by MP Wimal Weerawansa, Speaker Jayasuriya said that he inquired from the AG with regard to the report the day before and on Tuesday (8) morning.

I am still awaiting the report, Speaker Jayasuriya pointed out.


COPE calls for detailed report from CEB

Purshase of private power from power producers

 

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has called for a detailed report from the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) on its private power purchases from Independent Power Producers.

COPE Chairman Sunil Handunnetti told the Daily News yesterday, that the CEB was asked to produce the said report within a month. He said the CEB was asked to explain as to how the AS Embilipitya project was inked without considering the alternative options available. He said the CEB was asked to present details of its agreements on private power purchases, how those decisions were arrived at and how those agreements were renewed.

The CEB Senior Management was summoned before COPE yesterday. The COPE continues its investigations on the CEB, based on a report furnished by the Auditor General.


‘SLT incurred severe losses under previous regime’

Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) incurred severe losses under the previous regime due to certain uncalled for investments, Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando yesterday.

Accordingly, the loss incurred by Sri Lanka Telecom would amount to Rs.60 Million. Minister Fernando was responding to a question asked by MP Vasudewa Nanayakkara with regards to a drop in the value of shares belonging to Sri Lanka Telecom.

“These decisions were taken by the Board of Directors by your regime. I will give more details after I gather all necessary information regarding to the matter,” Minister Fernando further said.


Supplementary allocation of Rs. 27 BN presented to Parliament

Approval of House sought for expenses incurred from June 1 to June 31, 2018

A supplementary allocation of a total of Rs.27 BN was presented to Parliament yesterday.

It sought the approval of the House for expenses incurred from June 1 to June 31, 2018, provisioning 51 different programmes and purposes.

The total amount of the estimate was Rs 27,176,528,965 and out of which an amount of Rs 15,594,213,000 had been to cover recurrent expenses the government had incurred in addition to its budgetary allocations.

The estimate was presented to Parliament by Chief Government Whip Gayantha Karunathilake.

Approval sought out expenses including a sum of Rs 100,000,000 to meet the expenditure of relocating Army camps in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, a sum of Rs 2,165,600,000 to cover the expenses in acquiring the High Endurance Coast Guard Cutter from USA for the Sri Lanka Navy.

Approval has also been sought out for expenses of the Department of Buddhist Affairs which amounts to Rs 5,000,000 to settle the cost incurred on conducting the funerals of the late Most Ven. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thero and Girambe Ananda Thero under State patronage.

The Ministry of Social Welfare and Primary Industries has sought an additional sum of Rs 21,000,500 to meet expenses of domestic and foreign travelling, supplies, maintenance and other services of the Deputy Minister’s office, to pay salaries of the staff of Deputy Minister and acquiring assets for the Deputy Minister’s office.

The Ministry of Defence has requested for a sum of Rs 7,250,000 to meet the expenses of acquiring vehicles. Ministry of Posts and Shipping has asked for Rs 853,734,040 to meet the expenditure of the fulfillment of conditions precedent to the Concession Agreement for the Port of Hambantota as per the Cabinet decision dated June 12.

The Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs has sought a sum of Rs 121,000,000 to settle outstanding payments related to supply of dates to the Muslim community through mosques.

The Ministry of Buddhasasana has sought a sum of Rs 105,000,000 to cover the expenses of renovation of places of worship damaged due to an earthquake in Nepal.

A note attached to the supplementary provision state that it does not change the approved total expenditure limits of the annual estimate by Parliament. The allocation of such purposes has been made under the project of budgetary support services and contingent liabilities of the Department of National Budget and it is under the limits of the approved annual budget.

Therefore, either the burrowing limit or the maximum limit of total expenditure will not be increased due to granting of these supplementary provisions, the attachment further said.


Parliament adjourned without passing Bill

The Joint Opposition MPs hindered the passage of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill in Parliament yesterday, by refusing to give further time to conclude the debate.

The Bill was to broaden the legal provisions for combating transnational crime in keeping with modern technology of the world. The Government wanted more time to wrap up the debate and move for Third Reading of the Bill, but JO MPs refused to extend the time beyond 6.30 pm and asked for a division if the Government wanted to continue.

A tensed situation erupted due to this reason, while Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala was on her feet making the reply speech. Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, who was in the Chair, asked for the consent of the House to continue after 6.30pm till the day’s business was over, but the JO group led by NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa asked for a division to extend the time and resorted to shout and disrupt Government business.

The Government, which did not want to move for a division at that time, had to adjourn the House without passing the Bill. As the Government failed to extend the time, the Adjournment Motion of the TNA, which was scheduled for yesterday, could not be moved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 


 

Add new comment

Or log in with...