Parliament | Daily News


Thondaman’s death a huge loss to Upcountry citizens: PM

The demise of Arumugam Thondaman is a huge loss to the Upcountry people, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said while joining the Condolence Motion on late MP Arumugam Thondaman in Parliament, yesterday.

“He met me just a few hours prior to his demise. Even during that meeting, he spoke about the development of the upcountry people and ways of overcoming the difficulties faced by the upcountry Tamils,” the Premier said.

“Having commenced his active political life in 1985, he was fortunate enough to represent his people consecutively for 26 years, having been elected to Parliament at the 1994 General Election while representing the Nuwara Eliya District. In 1999 he became the leader of the CWC after the demise of his grandfather Saumyamoorthi Thondaman. He fought steadfastly for the wage increase of estate labourers and also rendered a yeoman service in gaining citizenship for over 300,000 estate Tamils of Indian descent,” the PM added.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa noted that Thondaman had never promoted terrorism and ensured that the upcountry people never got involved in separatism or terrorism.

This, he said, was a great contribution in ending the 30-year-long war. “Arumugam Thondaman not only opposed any force that promoted the division of the country, he also assisted the Government at all times to eradicate terrorism from this country. Hence, I must note that his contribution was a deciding factor in the Government’s efforts to douse the flames of war,” Prime Minister Rajapaksa said.

He also noted that Thondaman was a good friend who had always stood by him during trying times and never deserted him. Hence, the Prime Minister pledged to fulfil the requests made by the late Thondaman for his upcountry people.

Expressing his condolences to Thondaman’s family, the Premier expressed hope that Jeevan Thondaman would follow in the footsteps of his father and serve the upcountry people as his father did.

Thondaman worked tirelessly for all: Sajith

Joining the Vote of Condolence moved by the Government, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa yesterday observed that late Arumugam Thondaman was a politician who worked closely with everybody, sans any political discrimination.

The sudden demise of Thondaman is a great loss to Sri Lankan politics, Opposition Leader Premadasa noted. The Opposition Leader observed that hill country community won their rights as the Thondamans fought for them on behalf.

Premadasa also observed that late Thondaman was a leader who worked with every community and treated them all equally. Late Thondaman had to discuss and demand many governments to provide the facilities that estate workers are due as a community, Opposition Leader Premadasa added.

Representing one of the most suppressed communities in the country would not have been an easy task, he added.

“Thondaman was dedicated to these people and did every possible thing to uplift the quality of their lives,” he said.

The Opposition Leader also credited late Thondaman for the stance he held during the separatist conflict in the country


Thondaman rendered yeoman service to Estate Sector: Douglas

Late Nuwarae Eliya MP Arumugan Thondaman rendered a yeoman service to the Estate Sector people as a Parliamentarian, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda said yesterday.

He made this observation in Parliament while joining the Condolence Motion moved on the demise of Aumugan Thondaman.

Fisheries Minister Devananda said Arumugan Thondaman spent 26 years of his 55-year lifespan as a Parliamentarian. He always represented the people in the Upcountry Estate Sector and held many ministerial portfolios during his Parliamentary life, the minister added.

He always had a smile in his face and was a brother to all in the Upcountry. He left his people untimely and his demise is an irreparable loss to his people, Minister Devananda said, adding that it is a solace to those people is that his son, Jeevan Thondaman, could represent them as his successor. It reflects just how much Arumugan Thondaman helped his people, he added.

Joining the Condolence Motion, Jaffna District Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian S. Sritharan said that the Thondaman family has a history that surpasses 200 years. The service rendered by late Samyamoorthy Thondaman was continued by his son, late Arumugan Thondaman and, now, Arumugan Thondaman's son Jeevan has been elected to represent the same people and he has to fulfil the aspirations of the people.

Thondaman was an exemplary humanist: Ratnayake

Wildlife and Forest Conservation Minister C.B. Ratnayake, extending condolences to the family of late Arumugam Thondaman, observed that late Parliamentarian was an exemplary humanist and political figure.

Minister Ratnayake made these observations when the House moved condolences for the family of late MP and former Ceylon Workers’ Congress Leader Arumugam Thondaman.

Minister Ratnayake said, “Though many people attempted to mislead the late MP, my good friend Thondaman was firm in his humanist approach towards the world. He always valued friendship and reconciliation among all communities; he gave leadership to a community that includes people from all walks of life.

“As a political leader, he was an exemplary figure. He was always for reconciliation. He always had Sinhala bodyguards. That was the kind of trust he had in us,” the minister added. Speaking on the kind of friendship they had, Minister Rathnayake said, “His demise was a shock. Even a few days before his demise, we sat together while having breakfast and discussed matters regarding estate workers; he was passionate about increasing their quality of life.”

“Late Thondaman was planning to discuss with Indian Government about constructing a housing scheme for the estate workers who reside in slums,” Minister Ratnayake said.

Thondaman played pivotal role in curbing terrorism: Gammanpila

Extending condolences to the family of late MP Arumugam Thondaman, Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that both late Arumugam Thondaman and late Savumiamoorthy Thondaman played vital roles in Sri Lankan politics where they did not allow separatist terrorism to spread in the Hill Country. Had it not been the case, defeating terrorism would have been more difficult, Minister Gammanpila pointed out.

Minister Gammanpila made these observations when the House moved condolences for the family of late MP and former Ceylon Workers’ Congress Leader Arumugam Thondaman.

“The name ‘Thondaman’ is very important. The name does not just define a person, but a role. The role played by the Thondamans was crucial in Sri Lankan politics.

Terrorism was just as, or rather, much more horrible than the Coronavirus,” Minister Gammanpila said.

“It spread in North and East, and any attempt to spread it in the Hill Country was deflected first by late Savumiamoorthy Thondaman and then by his grandson, late Arumugam Thondaman.

The credit lays with late Thondaman for protecting Hill Country against terrorism,” he added.

Thondaman never discriminated anyone: Nimal

Late Nuwara Eliya district Parliamentarian Arumugan Thondaman never spoke a word of discrimination, Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said.

He made this observation in Parliament, yesterday, joining the Condolence Motion moved on the demise of Aumugan Thondaman.

The minister said he had associated with late Thondaman for few decades, and worked closely in the Parliament. Late Thondaman stood for the unitary status of the country when different forces attempted to get his support to bring about federalism to it, he added.

The terrorism that prevailed for three decades in the country did not infiltrate the Upcountry due to the farsighted intelligence of late Thondaman. He always held national unity, integrity, and cordial relationships among all communities in high esteem, Minister de Silva added.

Thondaman always stood with the leadership, unlike many others who betrayed it.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party mourns the demise of Arumugan Thondaman with his family members, relatives, and the people of the country.

Thondaman used all privileges as a tool for justice: Imtiyaz

Late Arumugam Thondaman was dedicated to empower estate workers that were sidelined after Independence, SJB MP Imtiyaz Bakir Makar said yesterday.

Extending condolences to late Arumugam Thondaman, Bakir Makar pointed out that late Thondaman used every privilege that he got as a tool to win justice and equal treatment for his community.

MP Makar said, “The Thondaman family, for decades, was dedicated to uplift the quality of life of the estate workers in the Hill Country. It is not easy to represent an underprivileged community. However, Thondaman did it while being targeted for ethnic discrimination.”

“He never for a moment walked out of the struggle. He stayed within the democratic stream and achieved much for his people. He understood the different dimensions of our society. Today, Thondaman's son, Jeevan, has been elected to Parliament. We hope that he follows his father’s and great grandfather’s legacy,” he added.

The Parliamentarian said, “Thondaman was an extremely talented politician. When I was the Media Minister in our Government, late Thondaman was the Minister of Housing.

I requested him to give me land to build a housing scheme for journalists; he did not hesitate to help me out.

He requested me to develop the postal service in the Hill Country as a return of the favour. That’s how he was.

He took every opportunity to facilitate his people.”

Thondaman opposed racism and intolerance: Gunatilake

Late Arumugam Thondaman was an exemplary politician, unlike some who always depend on racism, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna MP Gunatilake Rajapaksa said.

MP Rajapaksa made these observations while extending his condolences to late Arumugam Thondaman’s family as the Government moved a Vote on Condolence in Parliament, yesterday.

MP Gunatilake Rajapaksha said, “Politicians such as Vigneswaran were living in Colombo and embracing all kinds of luxuries. Then they went to the Northern region and tried to spread racism and discourage tolerance. This was not the case with the late Thondaman. He never encouraged racism. In fact, he was against racism and any such intolerance. The role played by late Thondaman during the conflict era in the country was exemplary.”

MP Gunatilake Rajapaksa also criticized the Opposition for questioning the funeral ceremony held to bid farewell to the late Parliamentarian. “Many people came to bid farewell to late Thondaman despite the Government having imposed curfew in several parts of the country due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Thondaman was a people-centred leader. So, it was only natural that people come to pay tribute.”

“However, the Opposition was trying to use this incident as a means to an end. They were expecting that a second wave of COVID-19 would begin after the funeral ceremony,” MP Gunatilake added.

Joining late Thondaman’s Condolence Motion

Gajendrakumar pledges TNPF’s ‘unconditional support’ for Upcountry Tamils

Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) Leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam yesterday offered his party’s unconditional support to win the rights of the Upcountry Tamils.

“The Thondaman family has represented the upcountry Tamil people from the very inception of Upcountry Tamil people’s politics in this country. The Upcountry Tamil people have been the backbone of this country’s economy for at least half of its time post-Independent,” he added.

“However, despite them having contributed so much by way of blood, toil, tears, and sweat, this country has continued to treat that community shabbily. Even today, the CWC and other political parties representing the Upcountry Tamil people are fighting for their basic rights and privileges to be recognized. Therefore, when such fundamental nature of those people’s cries is even prevalent today, to have to represent those people for decades is not a very easy task, by any means,” the TNPF Leader said.

Referring to Arumugam Thonadam’s grandfather, Saumyamoorthi Thondaman, and his contribution to the upcountry Tamil people, Ponnambalam said, “He was a colossus and an institution in his own right; not only in building up the trade union movement into a political party, but also going beyond to command the respect of all sections of society.

“For his grandson to have to fill the shoes of that colossus is the most unenviable task one can be asked to do. Late Arumugam Thondaman did that in a very quiet way,” he added.

MP Ponnambalam referred to several comments made in Parliament yesterday during the Condolence Motion for late Arumugam Thondaman, adding that the Thondamans despised the ‘Tamil Eelam’ struggle.

“Right along, they have both identified themselves with the struggle; late Saumyamoorthi Thondaman was a co-founder of the Tamil United Front, which was formed on May 4, 1972,” he added.

“It was in 1976, when the TUF graduated to the TULF after the ‘Waddukodai Resolution’ that Thondaman decided to take the CWC out of that organization as he felt that when the Waddukodai Resolution was passed; and when the aspirations of certain people was for the creation of a separate state, he felt the Upcountry Tamil people’s future was not along that path,” the Parliamentarian said.

The TNPF leader gave the assurance while speaking in Parliament, yesterday, that his party will unconditionally support State Minister Jeevan Thondaman or any leader working to address the issues of the Upcountry Tamils in order to win their rights and privileges. He said the Upcountry Tamils are a deserving community living in Sri Lanka.

Parliament Public Gallery to remain closed

The Parliament Public Gallery, which was closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, will continue to be closed until further notice.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena informed Parliament yesterday that the public gallery will remain closed until the health authorities grant approval to open it.

He added that the decision to keep the public gallery closed was taken following discussions held on Thursday.

Too late to object Premalal’s Parliamentary appointment: Speaker

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said it was too late to object Premalal Jayasekera becoming an MP and the Opposition had had to raise the matter before the Court of Appeal before it was decided to allow Jayasekera to take oaths.

The Speaker made this observation when Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa raised objections to Jayasekera taking oaths as an MP in line with the Court of Appeal order. The court informed Parliament of its ruling to permit Jayasekera; “We carried out that order,” Speaker Abeywardena said.

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said that the Speaker has already given a ruling on the matter, and that it cannot be put to debate. “That is against the Standing Orders,” Minister Gunawardena said. “Now, under the pretext of Points of Order, the Opposition keeps harking back to a past issue. This matter is over. Now these Points of Order are unjust to people who had voted for MP Jayasekera. You cannot raise Points of Order to discuss a matter pertaining to a ruling of the Speaker. If there is a matter against the ruling of the Chair, then there is a procedure. You have to bring it in the form of a Substantive Motion. There you have provisions to raise the issue in a motion. Then we could debate it here,” the Leader of the House added.

Opposition Leader Premadasa, raising a Point of Order, said that by allowing Jayasekera to take oaths, the Speaker had set a wrong precedent. “In 1982, Selvarajah Yogachandran, also known as ‘Kuttimani’, one of the leaders of the TELO, was nominated to Parliament. His name was gazzetted to become an MP. However, then Speaker Bakir Markar, citing the Sections 89 and 91 of the Constitution, did not permit Yogachandran to take oaths as an MP because the latter had been sentenced to death. Yogachandran, too, had appealed against the sentence,” he added.

“That is the precedence in Parliament. That should not have been breached. As per Section 91 (1) (a) of the Constitution, no person shall be qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament or to sit and vote in Parliament if he is or becomes subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 89. Section 89 (d) of the Constitution says that no person shall be qualified to be an elector at an election of the President, or of the Members of Parliament, or to vote at any referendum, if he is under sentence of death and he will lose his right to vote under such a sentence. The Speaker, by act of permitting Jayasekera to take oaths, has violated Constitutional provisions,” the Opposition Leader added.

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said that when the court gave an order that former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake could not be subjected to questions of a Parliamentary Select Committee, then speaker Chamal Rajapaksa ignored it, stating that Parliament is not bound to follow court orders. “Speaker Abeywardena said that it was a separate issue; that it has nothing to do with the issue at hand,” he added.

Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha said, “The Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary are the three main pillars of Government. The Speaker is the head of the Legislature. This matter should be taken seriously.”

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said to move to the business of the day as the debate was deviating from what was in the Order Paper.

Parliamentary Committee appointments concluded

Appointments have been made to the Parliament Watchdog Committee [Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE)], Committee on Public Accounts, Committee on Standing Orders, and the Committee on Public Petitions; Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced yesterday in Parliament.

Accordingly, the following MPs have been selected for COPE:

Mahinda Amaraweera, Mahindananda Aluthgamge, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Susil Premjayantha, Jayantha Samaraweera, Dlium Amunugama, Indika Anuruddha Herath, Dr Sarath Weerasekera, DV Chanaka, Dr Nalaka Godahewa, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Rauff Hakim, Anura Dissanayake, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Jagath Pushpakumara, Eran Wickremaratne, Ranajan Ramanayake, Nalin Bandara Jayamaha, SM Marikkar, Premnath C Dolawatte, Shankiyan Rajaputhiran Sasamanickam and Prof Charitha Herath.

The following MPs have been appointed to the Committee on Public Accounts:

Udaya Gammanpila, Duminda Dissanayake, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Lashantha Lalagiyawanna, Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Shehan Semasinghe, Prasanna Ranaweera, Tissa Attanayake, Prof Tissa Vitarana, Harin Fernando, Niroshan Perera, Faizal Cassim, Ashok Abeysinghe, Buddhika Pathirana, K Kader Masthan, Sivagnanam Sritharan, Dr Upul Galappatti, BYG Rathnasekera, Weerasumana Dissanayake, Prof Ranjith Bandara, Mohamad Muxammil and Dr Harini Amarasuriya.

The following Parliamentarians have been appointed to the Committee on Standing Orders:

Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Susil Premajayantha, Dilan Perera, Chandima Weerakkody, Mayantha Dissanayake, Charles Nirmalanathan, Sujith Perera, Sagara Kariyawasam and Dr Suren Raghavan.

The following Members of Parliament have been appointed to serve the Committee on Public Petitions:

Gamini Lokuge, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Nimal Lanza, Janaka Wakkumbura, S Viyalenderan, Thenuka Vidanagamage, Jeevan Thondaman, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar, Jagath Pushpakumara, Dilip Wedarachchi, Manusha Nanayakkara, K Kader Masthan, Ashoka Priyantha, Jayantha Ketagoda, Thushara Indunil Amarasena, Mujibur Rahuman, Geetha Samanmalee Kumarasinghe, Kulasingham Dhileepan, Nipuna Ranawaka and Rajika Wickramasinghe. In addition, MP Dharmalingam Sithadthan has been appointed to the Committee on High Posts, the Speaker said.