Drama in House as Speaker takes Voice Vote | Daily News


Drama in House as Speaker takes Voice Vote

Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando holding the Mace while in session yesterday. Picture by Rukmal Gamage.
Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando holding the Mace while in session yesterday. Picture by Rukmal Gamage.

Parliament, which was prorogued by the President on November 4, commenced sittings at 10 a.m. yesterday after the prorogation.

The Stay Order issued by the Supreme Court on the dissolution of Parliament paved the way for parliament to sit yesterday.

Parliament was adjourned until 10 a.m. today after a Voice Vote on a No Confidence Motion against the PM and the Cabinet was taken up by the Speaker.

The much-awaited first sitting of third session of Eighth Parliament was held yesterday amidst high tension and excitement.

Free seating in the main Chamber had been arranged with the Prime Minister’s seat given to Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chief Government Whip’s seat to Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and the seat of Leader of the House to Minister S.B.Dissanayake.

At the commencement of sittings, Speaker Jayasuriya urged members of both sides to act with restraint to uphold the dignity of the House, reminding them that they were being watched by the entire world.

Representatives of Diplomatic missions and foreign media personnel were present in the gallery to witness proceedings. Former Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe sat on the fourth row of the Opposition side. Several UNP MPs sat on the last row of the Government side as the Opposition benches were overflowing. The UNF MPs were wearing a black ‘sataka’ which read “For Democracy” and carried a number to show their majority.

Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayake read out President Maithripala Sirisena’s Gazette Extraordinary on the prorogation of Parliament as per tradition. While the SG read out the Gazette, MPs Piyasena Gamage and Manusha Nanayakkara crossed the floor from the Government to the Opposition. Opposition MPs welcomed them by thumping on their desks. UPFA MP A. H. M. Fowzie was seen seated in the Opposition aligning himself with the UNF MPs.

After the SG’s announcement, TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran moved a motion calling for the suspension of the Standing Orders (SO) of Parliament for yesterday’s sitting as per the section 135 of the SO. He also proposed to adopt the motion by going for a division in the House. JVP MP Vijitha Herath seconded it.

Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena strongly opposed the move and demanded the House be adjourned immediately as no items have been listed in the agenda for yesterday. He stressed that it was the Parliamentary tradition and that it must not be flouted. He added that proceeding to other business on the inaugural day of a new session was against the Constitution. The members in the Opposition shouted in disagreement.

The Speaker said that he allows the House to decide as it was a special occasion. At this point, MP Vijitha Herath walked to the chair of the SG and handed over a No-Confidence Motion against the new Government, receiving the applause of the Opposition members. JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake then called on the Speaker to move MP Sumanthiran’s motion to suspend the SO for a vote. All Opposition MPs raised hands in favour of the motion while the UPFA MPs agitated against.

At this point, Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando took the Mace to his custody and held it close to the Speaker’s chair to prevent any MPs from grabbing it. The UPFA MPs said the vote could not be taken without the Mace in the bracket. However, the Speaker said that he recognises that the Mace was properly held near his Chair as per the Standing O.

The Speaker, going by the majority will of the House, let the JVP Leader to move the NCM in the House. Minister Wimal Weerawansa objected saying that the NCM could not be taken up on the same day that it was submitted. The Speaker replied that he was going by the majority decision.

The UPFA MPs stood from seats in protest while MP Anura Dissanayake read out the NCM. While confusion reigned in the House, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa left the main Chamber escorted by MP Namal Rajapaksa. JVP MP Vijitha Herath seconded the NCM.

Over 30 UPFA MPs led by Udaya Padma Shantha, Prasanna Ranaweera, Sanath Nishantha, S.B. Dissanayake and Mahindananda Aluthgamage stormed the well of the House, some pointing fingers at the Speaker.

The Opposition MPs remained in their seats and the Speaker said that he would move the NCM for a vote as per the majority will. However, the UPFA MPs did not allow a floor vote and remained in the middle of the floor shouting slogans against the Speaker. As the Speaker’s repeated requests to the MPs to take their seats to conduct the vote went unheeded, the Speaker decided to go by the Voice Vote.

When the Speaker asked aloud as to who are in favour of the motion, the Opposition MPs stood up and shouted “aye”, but when the Speaker asked as to who are against the motion, the UPFA MPs who were in the middle of the floor did not react. Therefore the Speaker ruled that the NCM was passed as per the Voice Vote. Then he announced that the prevailing Government does not command the majority in the House.

The Speaker then adjourned sittings till 10 a.m. today. The UNP MPs were jubilant after the sittings concluded and were seen congratulating each other and clicking photos inside the Chamber. Many MPs were also seen congratulating former PM Wickremesinghe. UPFA MPs left the chamber immediately after the adjournment.

UPFA Minister Duminda Dissanayake was a notable absentee during the yesterday’s sitting. Immediately after sittings, Ministers Vadivel Suresh and Wasantha Senanayake switched allegiance back to the UNF and said that they would resign from their portfolios with immediate effect.


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