Only one Opposition in House - PM
The Joint Opposition members enacted 'big drama' again in the well of
the House on Tuesday (February 9) demanding that they be recognised as
an Independent Group in Parliament. Despite the continuous protests and
booing of the Joint Opposition members, the Government managed to pass
the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill to increase the
percentage of female representatives in Local Government bodies.
Before the debate commenced, UPFA parliamentarians Dinesh Gunawardena,
Wimal Weerawansa and Bandula Gunawardane drew the Speaker's attention to
the fact that despite several discussions they had with the Speaker and
a letter signed by 52 members in the Joint Opposition requesting him to
treat them as an Independent Group in Parliament, they had not yet
received any response from the Speaker. The UPFA dissidents called upon
the Speaker to ensure their legitimate right to function as an
Independent Group in the Opposition.
The protest by the Joint Opposition members led to an extensive
dialogue between government legislators and themselves. Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe told the House that according to Article 41 (A),
there can be only one Opposition and one Opposition Leader in
Parliament. The Premier considered the need to allocate more time for
the UPFA dissidents to speak in Parliament. The Joint Opposition members
pointed out as to how Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake and a
few other UNP MPs were allowed to function as an Independent Group in
Parliament after they quit the UNP. The Premier told the Joint
Opposition members that Lalith, Gamini and the others were recognised as
a separate group as they were expelled from the party.
MP Dinesh Gunawardena who acts as the de facto Opposition Leader of
the Joint Opposition continuously queried whether the Speaker was going
to recognise them as an Independent Group or not? Leader of the House
and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella pointed out
when President Maithripala Sirisena summons SLFP MPs, around 40 of the
SLFP dissidents also participate and agree to whatever the President
says. Now, they come here and pretend to be Joint Opposition MPs. The
Speaker also said that some injustice had been caused to them when time
However, he asked the UPFA rebels to discuss their domestic issues
with the party hierarchy and reach consensus and added that he cannot
contribute to the 'sin' of destroying the UPFA.
Subsequently, when the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill
was taken up for debate the Joint Opposition MPs led by MEP leader
Dinesh Gunawardena came to the Well of the House shouting various
slogans demanding their due rights. Amidst the protest staged by the
Joint Opposition members, the Prime Minister commenced the debate and
continued his speech while the Government MPs stood round the Prime
Minister to protect him. Later, Government Ministers and MPs were seen
shouting at the Opposition MPs who in return booed their counterparts.
The Government MPs continued to speak in the debate regardless of the
din. Ministers Chandrani Bandara, Faizer Mustapha, Anoma Gamage and TNA
MP Mavai Senathiraja spoke during the debate. As the Bill was passed
technically, the Speaker adjourned the House around 3.05 pm on Tuesday
(February 9), three hours before schedule.
On the following day, MP Dinesh Gunawardena raising a Point of Order
again, drew the Speaker's attention to allow them to function as an
Independent Group in the Opposition. MP Gunawardane said it was illegal
to pass a Bill while a group of MPs was staging a protest in the House.
The Prime Minister assured the Joint Opposition members that he would
discuss with President Maithripala Sirisena the possibility of
recognising them as an Independent Group in Parliament.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that there were true
SLFPers and also a 'Hora Pol' group in the SLFP and added that the
Speaker has no right to recognise the Hora Pol group. UPFA Kalutara
District MP Kumara Welgama said had the SLFP rejected joining the
Government, there would have been no Government today.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told the House that someone had threatened
him, over the telephone on Tuesday night to recognise the Joint
Opposition as an Independent Group in Parliament or face death. UPFA
Matara District MP Dullas Alahapperuma asked the Speaker to hold a
special inquiry into the death threats received by him over the phone
and inform the House of its findings. Else, this allegation could also
be directed at the Joint Opposition, he said. UPFA Colombo District MP
Bandula Gunawardena said that the Joint Opposition was a group which
also upholds the principles of democracy and condemns threats to the
Speaker who is the protector of the MPs.
The Supreme Court had determined that certain clauses of the
Theravadi Bhikkhu Kathikawatha Bill were inconsistent with the
Constitution and could only be passed with a two-thirds majority in
Parliament and approval by the people at a referendum. The Speaker
conveying the Supreme Court determination, told the House on Wednesday
(February 10) that the proposed Bill contained clauses inconsistent with
the provisions of the Constitution.
Another highlight of the House was that Democratic Party Leader Field
Marshal Sarath Fonseka took oaths as a Member of Parliament before
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Tuesday (February 9). After taking oaths, MP
Fonseka was accompanied to his seat by the Sergeant-at-Arms while other
MPs in the aisle congratulated him.