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Sunday, 28 September 2014

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Avoid attacking drought-hit people

Government legislators responding to an adjournment motion by UNP parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa on the prevailing drought expressed displeasure over the views expressed by the MP by blowing it out of proportion to gain a political mileage. They were very critical of the attempt by the MP to give a distorted picture on the situation by identifying the drought-stricken people with that of beggars.

Prior to his new appointment as the UNP Deputy Leader, MP Premadasa who moved an adjournment motion in Parliament on Thursday made a lengthy speech for over one hour on the prevailing drought at Hambantota and other areas. He criticised the Government's failure to provide adequate relief to the drought-hit people. The Government members categorically rejected the claims by MP. Premadasa that nearly 10 percent of the people have been seriously affected by the prevailing drought. He alleged that instead of providing sufficient relief, the Government gives only a pittance to the people.

The MP also criticised the Rs.6000 relief package given to the drought-hit people. What is the rationale behind calling this a relief package since those who want to get this will have to work at least 12 days. He said that relief needs be provided to the affected people irrespective of political differences.

However, Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera responding to MP Premadasa told the Opposition not to humiliate the drought-stricken people. The Minister vehemently criticised the MP when he said that the Government a few days prior to the Uva Provincial Council elections distributed Rs.2,500 among the people in the Moneragala district to get their votes. Minister Amaraweera said there was no such situation in the country as projected by MP Premadasa.

The Government has provided relief to the affected people. Since Sajith Premadasa is clamouring for relief today, the Minister reminded him how "Jana Saviya" was distributed among people during the tenure of his father. Although the people were promised Rs.25,000 under Jana Saviya, it was hardly possible to find a single bank which had deposited this Rs.25,000. The Minister told the House that this was not the first ever drought that hit the country.

A drought occurred during the tenure of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister as well. The Minister questioned whether the then UNP Government provided relief or gave financial assistance like the present Government for the drought-hit people.

On Thursday, Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody called upon MP Premadasa not to perform the duty of the Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe when he attempted to make a special statement using the time permitted to MPs to raise points of order in the House. Soon after question time, MP Premadasa raising a point of order attempted to draw the attention of the Chair on the post-election violence in Badulla and Moneragala.

The Deputy Speaker told the MP that it was not a point of order and called upon the House to move to the next item. The Deputy Speaker told the MP that it was the duty of the UNP Leader to raise such an issue and the MP does not need to perform his duties. The Deputy Speaker told MP Premadasa in lighter vein that he will get a chance some day and he has to wait for that. Until then, the MP should not try to perform the duties of the Opposition Leader.

A new Construction Industry Development Bill was moved by Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities Minister Wimal Weerawansa proposing comprehensive reforms for the construction industry sector.

The Minister commencing the debate, made a comprehensive analysis of the objectives of the Bill and the significant growth in the sphere of the construction industry. Despite making any valuable contribution to the debate, some UNP members made use of the time allocated for them to sling mud at the Government and Minister Weerawansa. In a situation where a large number of Ministry officials were also in the public gallery, some Opposition members deliberately launched a huge verbal attack on the Minister. However, no counter remarks came from the Government side as there were only a few Government Ministers in the Chamber at that time.

UNP parliamentarian Palitha Range Bandara who first opened the debate from the Opposition displayed a brassiere in the House claiming that it had been found in a relief package given by a UPFA candidate to a Bhikkhu during the Uva PC election campaign. The MP said that the brassiere was found in a bag with the preferential number of a UPFA candidate. However, the Government MPs called for an inquiry to find out how the brassiere had been smuggled into the House.

MP Bandara alleged that millions of rupees had been released by the Treasury to develop the Uva Province, but such funds had been used for UPFA candidates' election campaign. The UNP MP Sujeewa Senasinghe who joined in the debate used the time to sling mud at the Government and the Minister. This led Minister Weerawansa to request the MP to say at least a few words about the Bill.

A tense situation prevailed in the House on Thursday during question time when UNP parliamentarian Ajith P. Perera protested against a decision by the Deputy Speaker to reduce the number of supplementary questions permitted to the MPs to save the time during the question hour.

Before MP Perera raised his question, Deputy Speaker gave the opportunity to UNP MPs Dr. Harsha de Silva, Niroshan Perera and Akila Viraj Kariyawasam to ask only two questions. However, MP inquired from the Chair whether he would be allowed to ask three questions.

The Deputy Speaker granted permission only for two questions as the time had lapsed and the debate had to be commenced.

This led the MP to ask the Chair under what Standing Orders the number of supplementary questions was curtailed to two. Minister Hakeem said that it was the responsibility of the Chair to manage time while endorsing the right the MPs have to raise supplementary questions.

MP Perera who didn't accept the order given by the Chair said in an aggressive manner that he wanted to ask three questions. The Deputy Speaker who turned down the request, told the MP if he wanted he could have prevented the MP from asking any question at all. This led to an uproar in the House and the Opposition members protested against the Deputy Speaker's comments.

Chief Government Whip and Water Supply and Drainage Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena said "we may not agree with all the instructions passed down by the Chair, but we are bound by Parliament tradition to follow them".

The Opposition MPs should learn to respect those traditions and follow the instructions given by the Chair. "Despite the hue and cry by the Opposition members on Thursday against reducing the number of their supplementary questions, the questions for oral answers ended at 1.38 p.m. on Friday eight minutes after Parliament sittings commenced.

The Deputy Speaker told the House, "this may be the first time in the history of Parliament that the round of questions for oral answers ended at such record time. Although the Ministers were present to answer, the Opposition members were not present in the House to raise some of the 15 questions listed in the Order Paper.

Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne presented the Appropriation Bill to 'provide for services in the financial year 2015'. According to the Bill presented on behalf of the Finance and Planning Minister, the estimated expenditure of the Government for the period between January 1 to December 31, 2015 will be Rs.1,812 billion.

This time too the highest allocation of Rs. 285 billion has been made for the Defence and Urban Development Ministry.

 

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