Parliament | Daily News


Leader of House seeks inquiry into attempt to bring legally sensitive documents into Chamber

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday requested the Speaker to carry out an inquiry regarding an attempt to bring legally sensitive documents into the Chamber.

He said that legally sensitive documents have been taken into custody by the Parliament Police.

“An inquiry is needed to investigate these documents. Documents which are directly linked to the government or a Parliamentarian should not be handled in this way. In the Standing Orders, it clearly says how to take action if hateful statements are made against a Parliamentarian. Such action is not legal or ethical. So I would like to request the Speaker to investigate this matter thoroughly,” Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Lakshman Kiriella said that Parliamentarians have Parliament Privileges to speak and produce documents to the House.

“No one can question that Privilege. The Leader of the House was speaking about the conduct of the House. Have you forgotten how your people behaved during our rule? Even the chairs were used in fighting. Now you are talking about the conduct of the House. During your time in the Opposition, even the Parliament Police was attacked. The Speaker was also put in a difficult situation,” the MP said.

Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that people’s opinion on our Parliament has alarmingly dwindled. “The Government and the Opposition do not work together to retain our respect,” he said.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Hesha Vithanage said that it seemed that new MPs should be made more aware of how to conduct themselves in Parliament. “Some new MPs have not understood the customs and traditions in Parliament. We must respect our senior MPs. That is how we are taught,” he said.

Minister Namal Rajapaksa said that it is not a matter of seniority. “Whether an MP is senior or new, there is a particular way of conducting onesels in Parliament,” he said.

Politicians who victimise others during 2015-2019 should be penalised – MP Nalin

Those politicians who engaged in political victimisation under the former Good Governance Government between January 8, 2015 and November 26, 2019 should be penalised as it was unconstitutional and illegal, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Parliamentarian Nalin Fernando said in Parliament yesterday.

He was commencing the adjournment debate on the report prepared by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe incidents of Political Victimisation.

MP Fernando said that he moved that all those who operated that political victimisation under the former Good Governance Government between January 8, 2015 and November 26, 2019 should be penalised as it was a breach of the Constitution and illegal. He said that all those victims should be compensated.

He said that political victimisation was in practice since the time of the kings in the country. It was practised even under democratic rule as well. He said that it was intensified after 1977 under late President J. R. Jayewardene’s tenure.

He said that following their victory, the Government sent the Police on leave and suppressed the Opposition leftist parties led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). He said that even the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1988/89 suppressed their political opponents by killing them. He said that the two parties are known for organised victimising of their political opponents.

He said that following the defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015, those two parties and their allied parties organised and took revenge from their political opponents.

He said that he, too, was a victim of their political victimisation as a public servant. He said that during the former’s tenure, he was jailed at five times. He said that the former government through a Cabinet paper set up an unconstitutional institution called a National Council. Then they appointed an Anti Corruption Committee and it comprised of the senior members of the then government. Then they set up an Anti Corruption Bureau. The people were asked to make their complains there and they decided who should be dealt by law. Thereafter, they directed those matters before a Financial Crimes Investigation Division set up at their own discretion and the people were arrested to victimize,” the MP said.

He said that in that process under the Good Governance Government Johnston Fernando, who was the Trade Minister under Mahinda Rajapaksa Government and himself were summoned. A statement was taken from him and asked if he wanted to be freed or to be imprisoned and if he wanted to be freed, he was asked to make a statement against Johnston Fernando.

“However Johnston Fernando and myself were arrested over an incident where already the money had been settled which was not at all an act of corruption,” MP Nalin Fernando said. “The Good Governance Government did not need the truth but to victimise us,” he said.

He said that thereafter in prison, they were checked continuously to hares them. “My father died of this mental stress,” MP Fernando said. “I did not take a payment from Sathosa as its Chairman for 12 years. I developed it, but I was once questioned for incurring a loss of Rs 34,000. The annual turnover of Sathosa is Rs 3.5 billion and during all the 12 years, I had incurred a loss of Rs 34,000 to Sathosa, I was remanded for months as it came under a Public Property Act because the amount was higher than Rs 25,000. However, when they filed the case, the actual loss was Rs 19,000. Still I am facing the case,” the MP said.

He said that though he was victimised, he did not go before the Commission and face all the cases but this should not be repeated in the country and in the political sphere.

He said that there are enough laws to take action against corruption if there is corruption. He said that the new laws have to be formulated if there are any flaws in the laws. He queried as to why new laws were implemented by the former Good Governance Government if their objective was not to victimise their political opponents. It was a part of their process to publish these arrests in the evening. JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake was also a part of it, the MP said.

He said that they did not need to continue this political victimisation but to terminate it in a new political culture. He added that Though the political victimisation was made after 1977, it was not repeated by Mahinda Rajapaksa Government. But again, the UNP government commenced the political victimisation after he was defeated.

He said that though UNP Good Governance Government was organised to victimise political opponents, they were not prepared to protect the economy and national security. He said that all those who were part of taking political revenge, are no more Parliamentarians but for Anura Dissnayake, whose party had dropped from six to three seats.

Sportspersons cannot win in international arena as they lack guidance, knowledge – Minister Namal

Sportspersons in the country cannot win the international arena because they lack proper guidance and knowledge, Youth and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa said.

He said that the tenure of this Government has become a period that enhances the sports in this country by educating the sportspersons, monitoring the sports agents and all the other required areas to win the international sports and turn Sri Lanka the Sports hub of the South Asian region.

The Minister said that most of the sportspersons have a misunderstanding that they can win international sports by doping, which is totally incorrect. This misunderstanding should be lifted by educating them, he said.

He said that most of the other sportspersons are unable to win because of their sports agents and sports managers’ flaws. He said that the flaws of the Gyms, too, have contributed to the failure of the sportspersons.

He said that measures have already been taken to monitor these areas. The Youth and Sports Minister was commencing the debate on the Regulations under the Convention Against Doping in Sports Act in Parliament on Wednesday.

He said that it is appreciable that the doping agents, which were banned by the international sports authorities, have immediately been banned in Sri Lanka. He said that the laboratories in Sri Lanka have been developed far better than that of any in the region.

Minister Rajapaksa said that as doping is a significant issue among the sportspersons, taking drugs and liquor is a serious issue among the public. He said that 0.55 million of people are addicted to drugs in the country while 125,000 are addicted to Cocaine. He said that the Opposition members have forgotten such topics but speak of unnecessary matters. “The Opposition is interrupting the proceedings of Parliament by distracting it using various tactics,” he said.

He said that the discipline of the sportspersons should be developed unlike the in Opposition members in Parliament. He was referring to the Opposition members who were interrupting him during his speech.

He said that although the Opposition members lament over those victims of the Easter Sunday attacks here interrupting me did not have the same feeling on the evening of the attacks. Anybody can recall the feelings of their faces when they were held the Press briefing on the day of Easter Sunday attacks.

Attempting to strip Opposition MPs’ of civil rights is act of political bankruptcy –  Field Marshal Fonseka 

Attempting to strip the Opposition Parliamentarians of their civil rights should be considered an act of political bankruptcy, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Filed Marshal Sarath Fonseka said in Parliament yesterday.

MP Fonseka was participating in the debate on the report by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that investigated cases of political revenge during 2015-2019.

He said that it assists culprits of serious crimes and fraud to walk free.

“The Chairman of this Commission gave an order to the Attorney General to withdraw a case regarding abduction of 11 children for ransom. However, the AG refused to do so. These children included Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil, all of them were children belonging to Colombo elite. Is it fair to release the culprits of this crime? It does not matter whether the culprits were wearing uniforms or not. What matters is that we need to punish the culprits of these heinous crimes. This “crazy” commission has recommended suspending number of court cases. These recommendations are not realistic. By these recommendations, we can see that the Judiciary System and the law of this country are greatly disrespected. If there is a special Presidential Commission to give recommendations upon inquiry on Parliamentarians who were in the Anti-Corruption Unit during the Yahapalana regime, we are afraid that there might be an attempt to strip us of our civil rights. I believe that even the Government Parliamentarians are not happy with a move like this.

However, since the Special Presidential Commission members include judges who are still active in the Judiciary, we hope that they will keep the honour of the Judiciary when arriving at decisions regarding this matter. Trying to strip us of our civil rights is an act out of fearfulness. When Sirimavo Bandaranaike was stripped of her civil rights, it was a deadly blow on democracy. Politicians like Gamini Dissanayake were against this move. Acts like these, project the bankruptcy in politics.”

Good Governance Government victimised opponents as never before – MP Jayantha

The former Good Governance Government led by the United National Party (UNP) operated the organised political victimisation in a grave manner than ever before in the political history in the country, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) National List MP Jayantha Weerasinghe said. He was seconding the adjournment debate on the report by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe incidents of Political Victimisation moved by SLPP Parliamentarian Nalin Fernando in Parliament yesterday.

He said that the priority of a newly appointed government is given to formulate laws for the betterment of the country and public whereas the Good Governance Government gave priority to a gazette similar to Hitler’s Gestapo policy to victimise their political opponents. It contained background to set up the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), which was totally illegal and it was moved as their first gazette published12 days after the election. He said that the former Good Governance Government outdid Hitler and Idi Amin by taking vengeance from the family members of their political opponents. They remanded the family members as well. The illegal FCID was set up after one month of their election, he said.

He said that Bachelet who prepared the Geneva report on Sri Lanka has been appointed to monitor the country only after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected. They have forgotten to include a single word on the political victimisation by the Previous Good Governance Government, he said. He said that when the former President was elected on January 8 2015, a Prime Minister was appointed from a minority party in Parliament for the first time in the world’s history. He added that the Opposition Leader, too, was appointed out of the process from a minority party in the Opposition. “Ms Bachelet did not see them,” MP Weerasinghe said. “She is focusing on the government, which has brought political victimisation to an end,” he said.“The former Good Governance Government commenced taking political revenge from the Mahinda Rajapaksa, who freed the country from the ruthless LTTE terrorism. Namal Rajapaksa was remanded. Yoshitha Rajapaksa was remanded at night. Basil Rajapaksa was remanded twice. Their

modus operandi was revenge,” he said. “Mahinda Rajapaksa was first taken before a Commission where the Defence Counsels pointed out the accounts were calculated wrongly and he was not due a single penny. Thereafter, the Commission did not allow the Defence to cross examine the witnesses. “Ms Bachelet did not see them,” MP Weerasinghe said. She had been sleeping during then until the Diaspora prince kissed her,” he said. “Cases were filed in many Magistrate’s Courts against Basil Rajapaksa but he had self confidence to set up a new political party and defeat those who took revenge from him and others. It was revealed later that Basil Rajapaksa and three others were remanded on fake evidence. Some MPs were involved in it,” he said.

“Those days, some cases, which were within the jurisdiction of Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court were directed to the Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court. In some cases, it was revealed that the Police threatened officers to give statements according to their instructions against Basil Rajapaksa. Ms Bachelet did not see them,” MP Weerasinghe said. “In a financial fraud case against Basil Rajapaksa and others during the Good Governance Government, the State Counsel happened to say that Basil Rajapaksa and others had not misappropriated money. When I demanded bail be granted to them, the judge who had affiliations with Ranjan Ramanayake as revealed in his audio and video footage refused to grant bail and remanded them,” he said.

“During Good Governance Government, Thusith Mudalige from the Attorney General’s Department went to Temple trees to finalise who should be arrested. Finally, it was noted in the commission reports, all these investigations were not legal as they were done by an illegally appointed Police Division. It was noted in the judgments that by setting up the FCID, the people have been gravely misled,” the MP said. “All officers have been instructed by the Police during the Good Governance Government to say that they paid money on instructions of Basil Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa or Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” he said.

TNA MP Sumanthiran opposes Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella’s request

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Sumanthiran, making a point with regard to what had taken place at the Party Leaders meeting, disagreed with the request by the Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella, who claimed that it was the Opposition that should initiate the debate on the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into and obtain information in relation to alleged incidents of political victimisation from January 8, 2015 to November 16, 2019.

“We had a long discussion on that and eventually, I conceded on my behalf, not on behalf of the other parties. But after I conceded, there was no agitation either by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) or the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Therefore, the decision which you have rightly pointed out, is that the Government will move the adjournment motion today,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said that when the Opposition had wanted to move the debate, MP Sumanthiran had said that he did not mind the Government moving the debate. “But we were silent because we were in the earlier position. We did not agree, but we were silent as we had stated our position earlier. Sumanthiran is from a different party and that was his stand, but we stayed silent as we maintained our stand that we should move the debate,” he added.

MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that it was due to the importance of this report that a decision had been made to stop the question round and the statements under Standing Orders 27/2 during this two-day debate and urged the Speaker to see that the House get on with the debate without wasting time on petty arguments.

The Speaker then said that a decision had to be made under Standing Orders 23 to resolve this matter since all parties could not come to an agreement during the Party Leaders’ meeting.

MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that the decision to allow the Government to move the debate had been made as an outcome of the discussions held and not under Standing Order 23, which is specifically to allow Government Business to be set down in such order as the Government thinks appropriate. “If the Speaker interprets that this be taken under Standing Order 23, then it would set a wrong precedence that the Government could bring in any proposal saying that it is a government business. An Adjournment Motion is not a government business,” he said.

Muthurajawela to become National Park

Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that a Cabinet paper has already been drafted to convert the Muthurajawela Sanctuary to a National Park.

The Secretary was speaking at the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) chaired by Prof. Tissa Vitharana in Parliament.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that a joint committee has been appointed inclusive of all parties responsible for the conservation of the Muthurajawela Sanctuary as recommended by the previous meeting of the COPA. It was mentioned that the committee will be co-chaired by the Secretaries of the Urban Development Ministry, Wildlife and Forest Conservation Ministry.

The discussions have been carried out for empowering the committee and a Cabinet paper has already been drafted. It is essential to appoint an action committee consisting of representatives of all relevant institutions and environmental organizations to assist the committee.

The COPA Committee drew its attention to the fact that the Western Province Governor had passed a resolution in the Gampaha District Development Committee on January 27 stating that over 600 acres of all private lands in Muthurajawela Eco-Sensitive Zone by the Government. Its legitimacy was discussed at the committee.

The Committee on Public Accounts also drew its attention towards the complaints received by the Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation, the Central Environmental Authority, the Urban Development Authority and the Department of Agrarian Development pertaining to the unauthorized filling of lands in the Muthurajawela Eco-Sensitive Zone and its failure to take formal action on a number of such complaints pertaining to the said concern.

'Stronger mechanisms needed to prevent sexual harassment against sportspersons'

Stronger mechanisms are needed to prevent sexual harassment and abuses undergone by the sportspersons, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya said in Parliament on Wednesday.

MP Amarasuriya was participating in the debate on the gazette notification on banned substances, including banned stimulants, introduced in 2021 by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“We should look upon sports not only in terms of competitive sports but also in terms of how to affect our psychosocial wellbeing. In 2019, the Sri Lanka National Olympic Committee passed a bill regarding the prevention of harassment and abuse against sportspersons. It is a good move. But passing a legislature itself is not enough when it comes to implementation process, especially in cases of sexual harassment and abuse. We need more initiatives taken so that sportspersons can use these legislations to avoid such harassment. Not a single complaint has been made using the support of this Bill. It is not because there are zero cases of harassment or abuse but because sportspersons are yet reluctant to use them in fear of other kinds of discrimination and the lack of proper mechanism,” MP Amarasuriya said.

Sri Lanka consistently supported safeguarding Palestinian people’s rights - Speaker

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in Parliament that Sri Lanka has consistently supported to safeguard the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and their right to an independent sovereign State based on the UN Security Council Resolutions.

Sri Lanka extended its fullest support towards Palesnine’s application for admission as a Full Member in the United Nations proving that a friend in need is a friend indeed, Speaker Abeywardena said.

The Speaker was addressing the meeting of the Palestine-Sri Lankan Parliamentary Friendship Association for the ninth Parliament on Wednesday in Parliament.

The meeting was held under the patronage of the Speaker, Ambassador of State of Palestine Dr. Zuhair Mohommad Hamadallah Dar Zaid and Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake and was attended by Ministers, State Ministers and Parliamentarians.

The Speaker said that Sri Lanka–Palestine Diplomatic relations run back to over four decades and the Embassy of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was opened in Colombo on July 1, 1975. Subsequent to our recognition of Palestine as a State in 1988, the Embassy of the PLO was renamed as the Embassy of the State of Palestine on February 6, 1989.’’

“Since 1968, Sri Lanka, as the Chair of the United Nations Special Committee on Israeli practises affecting Human Rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, has been one of the most significant voices at the United Nations on the subject of the unfortunate conditions of the Occupied Territories’’ the Speaker said.

“Another expression of the very close and cordial relations between the two countries is that the establishment of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Vocational Training Centre in the State of Palestine. It would enhance the Human Resources Development of the State of Palestinian and I must reiterate that Sri Lanka is ready to extend its helping hand towards the uplifting of your people in the future, too,” the Speaker said.

Parliamentarian Dr. Suren Raghavan was elected the new Chairman of the Sri Lanka-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Organization.

'Government will not interfere with Judiciary'

Samurdhi, Home Economy, Micro Finance and Self Employment State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said in Parliament yesterday that the Government will not interfere with the independence of the Judiciary.

State Minister Semasinghe was participating in the debate on the report submitted by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating the incidents of political revenge.

Although the recommendations of the Presidential Commission shall be implemented, no political revenge will be taken like the previous government, the Minister said. He also said that special attention will be paid to the retaliation against public servants rather than on politicians.

State Minister Semasinghe said that political revenge was inflicted on public servants and Parliamentarians of the Rajapaksa camp. He said that the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) was an illegal institution, which was set up on political pretext by the previous Yahapalana government.

The State Minister also said that the Ministers had made unprecedented statements in Parliament and were carrying out a political manhunt under the guise of the Anti-Corruption Commission while committing large scale frauds such as the Central Bank Bond scam.