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Parliament

Speaker advises Dayasiri to appear before PSC

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told MP Dayasiri Jayasekara in Parliament yesterday that he feels it is advisable for the latter to appear before the Parliament Special Select Committee (PSC) which was established with the unanimous agreement of both the government and the Opposition.

“Therefore, if any Member of Parliament is summoned before a select committee, then they should comply with the order otherwise it could be deemed an insult to parliament,” he said.

Responding to a statement made by MP Dayasiri Jayasekara who said he had not appeared before the Special Select Committee as it would violate the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Speaker noted that the Parliament Standing Orders were revised after some 20 plus years. “The revision of Standing Orders was made in line with the changing world trends with the aim of gearing ourselves to keep up with the changing world. We also gave these committees the power to authorise the media to cover the proceedings of these committees. Hence, the Chairman of the Committee has the authority to allow the media to cover the proceedings with the agreement of the rest of the committee members.

He further noted that the case regarding this issue was taken up subsequent to the Special Parliament Select Committee commencing their proceedings. Therefore, it is not possible to stop these proceedings.

Under the new Standing Orders, he said that the Speaker of the House has the authority under 91(E) to decide whether the Committee should continue its proceedings. “Therefore, I took the decision to continue with the proceedings of the Special Select Committee having sought the advice of the Attorney General and other relevant parties.”

Therefore, he told Jayasekara that if he feels that some injustice or any issue would result by him testifying before the Committee, he could notify them about it.

Expressing his views regarding the letters sent by the President, the Speaker noted that the Parliament received around four sets of letters from the President and his office per week. “One set is the orders sent by the President, which I present during sittings. And the others are dealt with accordingly. In this instance too appropriate action was taken regarding the letter sent by the President and it was forwarded to the relevant parties.”

Meanwhile, Opposition MPs Dayasiri Jayasekara, Mahinda Amaraweera and Minister Lakshman Kiriella also expressed their views regarding this issue.


Dayasiri wants certain issues cleared

UPFA MP Dayasiri Jayasekara said that he does not want to disparage the Parliament Select Committee inquiring into the Easter Sunday terror attacks by his continued refusal to comply with its summoning.

Accordingly, MP Jayasekara requested the Speaker of the House to clear out the issues pertaining to the Committee so that he could take a decision on appearing before the PSC today.

MP Dayasiri Jayasekara refused to appear before the PSC on the basis that appearing so would violate his Parliamentary privileges. He was summoned before the Committee twice and MP Jayasekara refused to appear on both occasions. Continuation of the PSC seems prejudicial to the cases that are heard before the Supreme Court on the Easter Sunday terror attacks, he said. “It is a violation of Standing Orders and I don’t want to appear before the PSC because doing so violates my Parliamentary privileges as well,” Jayasekara observed.

“As a Member of Parliament I respect every Parliament Committee. I don’t want to trivialize them. If I keep refusing the summoning of the PSC, it would belittle the PSC. So I earnestly request Speaker Jayasuriya to attend to the matters I have pointed out. So then, I would take a decision on whether I should appear before the PSC today,” said Jayasekara, raising a question based on Parliamentary Privileges, in Parliament yesterday.


I have been summoned before PSC - PM

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday admitted that he has been summoned before the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) inquiring into the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe made this observation in Parliament yesterday following a brief debate between several government and opposition MPs, pertaining to the PSC proceedings.

MP Dayasiri Jayasekara raised a Parliament privileges question on him being summoned before the PSC. MP Mahinda Amaraweera and Minister Lakshman Kiriella made their observations and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya gave a reply to the concerns raised.

Following the brief debate Prime Minister Wickremesinghe rose to point out that the House has a limited time period to pass the supplementary allocation proposed for Highway and Road Development activities and that it was delayed at several occasions previously.

When several Opposition MPs questioned on the PSC, PM Wickremesinghe said, “As a person who has been summoned by the Parliament Select Committee I would not like to speak about this matter. However, the Speaker has already given his opinion on the matter.”

Meanwhile, UPFA MP Dayasiri Jayasekara, Eastern Province Deputy Inspector General of Police and Secretary to the Ministry of Education have been summoned before the Parliament Select Committee inquiring into the Eastern Sunday terror attacks today (10).


Continuation of PSC detrimental - Amaraweera

UPFA MP Mahinda Amaraweera who followed MP Jayasekara, pointed out that the PSC’s continuation is detrimental to the cases heard before the Courts on the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Amaraweera also said that it is doubtful if the PSC was passed unanimously in Parliament. “We agreed with the initial proposal on the PSC. However its dynamics changed following that,” he pointed out.

Amaraweera requested the Speaker to inform about the letter of opinion sent by the Attorney General on the PSC. “The Speaker of the House usually seeks the opinion of the AG. So why are we not even allowed to know what the AG’s opinion is?” he questioned.

Amaraweera questioning the activities of the PSC said, “Now this PSC is deciding who is guilty and who is not. They hear the case in the presence of the media and decide who is correct and who is responsible for the terror attacks.”


Those avoiding PSC have something to hide - Kiriella

Any person who is evading the summoning of the Parliament Select Committee inquiring into the Easter Sunday terror attacks has something to hide, Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday. Minister Kiriella also said that such persons are avoiding the PSC because they don’t have any valid answers to provide.

He pointed out that the PSC was able to uncover crucial evidence on the terror attacks. He also pointed out that several officers were removed from their positions based on the findings of the PSC.

The Minister also noted that PSC’s continuation shall not in any way affect the court cases on the terror attacks. “Quite to the contrary, its findings will be helpful to the court cases. They can use the findings of the PSC as evidence for their court cases. We should also remember that the PSC is not hearing a case but that it is gathering evidence. Similar to the PSC in our country, USA carried out an inquiry pertaining to the 9/11 attacks, which was telecast all over the world,” Minister Kiriella observed.

Kiriella also said that anyone who is summoned before the PSC must appear before it. That is what we call Parliamentary democracy, he said.

Speaking further, Minister Kiriella observed that PSC proceedings have become the most popular programme in media.

At this juncture UPFA MP Wimal Weerawansa queried if the PSC is a reality TV show. “Don’t forget that it is dealing with the deaths of 250 people of this country,” Weerawansa pointed out.


Imported fags will enhance Govt. revenue – Mangala

‘Tobacco monopoly funds anti-smoking campaigners, media’

The tobacco monopoly in Sri Lanka funds anti-smoking campaigners and media institutions to secure their monopoly in the market, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera charged in Parliament yesterday.

The Finance Minister made this observation opening the debate on the Highways and Road Development and Petroleum Resources Development Ministry’s Supplementary Estimate of Rs. 65,000 million presented on 20 June.

Speaking further Minister Samaraweera pointed out that there is a large black market operating in the country for foreign cigarettes.

“Although importing foreign cigarettes is prohibited in Sri Lanka, anyone can find almost all the foreign cigarettes here. There is a large black market for foreign cigarettes. Due to this, the Government loses huge potential revenue.

That is why I approved importing Chinese cigarettes. There is a large number of Chinese workers in Sri Lanka at the moment. They consume Chinese cigarettes. It was the former Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka who brought my attention to this. The Ambassador said the government can gain huge revenue if we import Chinese cigarettes,” Samaraweera said.


No money obtained from Samurdhi beneficiaries or Treasury for promotional materials - Minister Gamage

Primary Industries and Social Empowerment Minister Daya Gamage addressing Parliament yesterday (9) said that he had not obtained any money from Samurdhi beneficiaries or the Treasury for promotional materials for the event organised for the 600,000 new beneficiaries. However, the Minister was unable to give an explanation to Parliament about where he obtained the money to carrying out the said propaganda campaign.

The government through its Budget 2019 allocated Rs. 10 billion for the additional 600,000 persons to the Samurdhi beneficiary scheme.

Gamage who attended yesterday’s Parliamentary Sitting in response to a letter sent by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya which requested him to attend the Sitting to answer questions raised by the Opposition MPs under Standing Orders 27/2, alleged that the Opposition MPs make false accusations against him because he has proved his efficiency and during a short period had done what previous governments failed to do. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake questioned Gamage on how he raised approximately Rs.300 million by charging Rs.500 from the 600,000 Samurdhi beneficiaries. He alleged that Gamage had spent the money taken from the beneficiaries for printing posters and t-shirts for propaganda campaigns.

Since Gamage did not come to Parliament to answer the questions, Dissanayake and several Opposition MPs questioned the government about Gamage’s absence. Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella following the questions requested the Speaker to take action on Gamage’s repeated failure to participate in the Sittings to respond to the questions raised.

Dissanayake asked, “How did you find Rs. 300 million for those Samurdhi events? Did you print the t-shirts using that money? At which apparel factory were those t-shirts printed?

Gamage responded, “ It is ironic that Dissanayake who is always concerned about the wellbeing of poor people is criticizing us for giving them a T-shirt worth Rs.450. Also, there are 9 garment factories in the Daya Apparel Group.”

Then Dissanayake asked Gamage if he had deducted Rs.500 from each Samurdhi beneficiary? “First, you had issued a circular instructing Rs. 300 be cut from each Samurdhi instalment. Your initial plan was to collect Rs. 180 million for the propaganda campaign. When that amount was not sufficient, and you issued another circular to cut Rs. 500. You collected Rs. 300 million. When I first raised this question months ago I had both these circulars. If you attended that Sitting, I could have shown them to you. Do you deny this allegation?”

However, Gamage denied having cut Rs. 500 from anyone. “I reject your allegation. The beneficiaries receive their full instalment. We did not steal Samurdhi funds like the former government did. That is why you make these allegations. We did what the previous government could not do.”

Dissanayake demanded, “Did you or didn’t you spend Rs. 300 million for the propaganda campaign? How did you find that amount? Did you take get that money?

Gamage, evading answering his question directly said, “Rs. 300 million might be a big amount to you. But we will earn Rs. 30 billion from exports. We have plans for that. And how did you find that we spent Rs. 300 million?”

Dissanayake cynically said, “Ah yes, compared to Prime Minister’s Bond Scam, Rs. 300 million is a small amount.”

A clearly annoyed Gamage hit out that when Dissnayake was the Agriculture Minister the latter had also spent money to paste posters about his projects.

Joining the argument, Chief Opposition Whip Mahinda Amaraweera pointed out that Gamage’s answers were not in response to the questions raised by the Opposition. He requested Gamage to give a direct answer to Dissanayake’s question. However, Gamage repeatedly kept stating that he did not collect the money either from Samurdhi instalments or the Treasury.

United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Wimal Weerawansa not wanting to miss his opportunity to make a smart remark said, “Well, it seems that you have performed majic by generating that money. You said you did not take the money either from the Samurdhi fund or the Treasury. We would also like to know how you performed this trick. Please, educate us as to how you magically conjured such monies.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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