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
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
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.