Hue and cry over Opposition Leader's position
The decision by 26 SLFP MPs to join the newly formed National
Government and secure ministerial portfolios has created a volatile
political situation in the composition of Parliament leading to a hue
and cry over the legitimacy of a SLFP parliamentarian functioning as the
Leader of the Opposition.
The issue turned into a hot debate on the floor of the House due to
the divergent views expressed by the JVP and some coalition partners of
the main Opposition UPFA who called upon Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa to
seriously consider this situation and give a ruling to safeguard the
dignity and decorum of the House.
JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake raised a point of order on the
legitimacy of Nimal Siripala de Silva MP functioning as the leader of
the opposition when the SLFP has also become an integral part of the
ruling coalition and several senior SLFPers and officebearers hold
ministerial positions in the Cabinet. The MP said the incumbent
Government is a coalition in which some MPs sit in the Opposition with
others in the Government. He described this as abnormal and queer.
The MP attempted to convince that this situation would denigrate the
dignity and decorum of the House. Dissanayake stressed that none could
condone attempts at creating Governments and Oppositions like children
building toy-houses. In a situation where the Leader of the Opposition
has failed to muster the support of Opposition parties, the MP flatly
refused to accept him as the Leader of the Opposition.
The point raised by MP Dissanayake was that the House is governed by
Standing Orders, and whenever there is a lacuna in the Standing Orders,
the House should take the precedence and follow the tradition.
He pointed out how the coalition formed by the Government in
collaboration with the main opposition UPFA has created an unprecedented
situation in Parliament. The party which commands the majority in the
Opposition ranks should be given the position of Opposition Leader.
However, the issue eventually developed into an extensive dialogue as
UPFA MPs Dinesh Gunawardena, Wimal Weerawansa, Susil Premjayantha, Front
Line Socialist Party MP Ajith Kumara and Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe expressed various opinions on the position of Leader of
the Opposition. The topic turned into a debate as the constituent
partners of the UPFA-led coalition, Dinesh Gunawardena and Wimal
Weerawansa expressed their displeasure over Nimal Siripala de Silva
functioning as the Leader of the Opposition.
MEP Leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena stressed the importance of leaving
no room to challenge the supremacy of Parliament and to denigrate its
status. He criticised the attempts of some SLFP MPs who were given
ministerial portfolios in the Government. Gunawardena pointed out that a
group of UNP MPs had also crossed over to the UPFA when it was in power.
The UNP never accepted them as the stakeholders of that Government
but disciplinary action was taken against them. If some UPFA MPs had
joined the Government and received portfolios, the UPFA would not have
endorsed that decision. The people question whether the SLFP is in the
Government or in the Opposition. This House should not become a mockery.
MP Gunawardena warned that the people would loose their confidence in
NFF Leader MP Wimal Weerawansa describing the volatile political
situation in the House said that it is entirely up to the Opposition to
select a suitable person as the Leader of the Opposition, else the
Government doesn't need an Opposition leader.
Despite the divergent views expressed by the Opposition
parliamentarians on the issue, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
remained silent without joining in the discussion. This led MP Anura
Kumara Dissanayake to query as to why Premier Wickremesinghe who cites
examples from British parliamentary tradition is silent today.
The Prime Minister told the House that he held the position of Leader
of the Opposition for 11 years and there was no problem of this nature
at the time. This matter should be sorted by the Opposition parties.
UPFA parliamentarian Susil Premajayantha told the House in lighter vein
that the Prime Minister had said he held the Opposition Leader's post
for 11 years and we call upon him to revert to the same position and
there would be no problem.
The Premier told the MP that he did not mind being the Prime Minister
and the Leader of the Opposition. MP Premajayantha said the UPFA is
represented by 15 constituent parties with 138 MPs. Of them 120 are
SLFPers and as such he called upon the Speaker to consider the number of
MPs in each party before giving a ruling as this is a unique situation.
The Speaker told the House that he would take time to give a ruling
as the issue was quite problematic. He would inform the House soon as to
who should be the Leader of Opposition in Parliament.
If the SLFP MPs didn't accept ministerial portfolios, this problem
would not have arisen, he said. However, UPFA MP Anura Priyadarshana
Yapa said that there were MPs and parties which represent the National
Executive Council and requested the Speaker to take it into
Fulfilling yet another promise given under the Government's
hundred-day program, the Prime Minister presented the Bill on the 19th
Amendment to the Constitution in Parliament to prune certain powers of
the Executive Presidency.
Leader of the Opposition Nimal Siripala de Silva and JHU
Parliamentarian Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thera raising a point of order
said that this Bill could not be passed in Parliament as some of the
Amendments it envisaged to bring about should be approved at a
referendum. Ven. Ratana Thera expressing his displeasure said that
several important matters raised by the Pivithuru Hetak National Council
have not been included in the draft 19th Amendment. He said the JHU had
agreed to an Amendment which would not require a referendum.
He alleged this draft Amendment has been presented in Parliament
without holding any discussions with political parties. The Premier said
that it was agreed to present the 19th Amendment without going for a
referendum. He said several petitions have also been submitted to the
Supreme Court on this issue.
The Government is awaiting the Supreme Court determination. The
Leader of the Opposition said the stance of the SLFP is that the 19th
Amendment and the proposed electoral reforms should be taken up