Joint Opposition suspends agitation campaign
Joint Opposition on Wednesday (February 24) decided to suspend its
agitation campaign as the Speaker and the Government had agreed to
resolve nearly 95 percent of its grievances. When the SLFP dissidents
made a big hue and cry in the House over the past couple of weeks
demanding separate recognition, the remarks by the SLFP stalwarts in
President Maithripala Sirisena's camp was a clear testimony that the
party hierarchy would not allow them to function as a separate entity as
they are also part and parcel of the SLFP led UPFA coalition.
When the House resumed sittings on Tuesday (February 23), UPFA
Colombo District Parliamentarian Dinesh Gunawardena once again demanded
to know whether they would be recognised as an independent group in
Parliament and also queried whether they would be granted permission to
make special statements under the provisions of the Standing Order
Leader of the House and Higher Education and Highways Minister
Lakshman Kiriella said under the Standing Order 23(2) special statements
can only be made by the Leader of the Opposition or five recognised
Party Leaders. Who is the leader of the Joint Opposition, Minister
Kiriella asked. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said there can't be a party
within a party.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the UPFA dissidents in
lighter vein that if they so wish, that any of them can join the UNP and
the membership applications are with the UNP General Secretary. He also
told the UPFA rebel MPs that this matter could be resolved through
negotiation and added that the UNP could not do anything regarding this.
The matter should be discussed with the UPFA Parliamentary Group Leader
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and UPFA Leader President Maithripala
Sirisena as all these UPFA dissidents belong to the UPFA, he said.
The recent death threats against Speaker Karu Jayasuriya turned into
a hot topic in the House following a query raised by UPFA Ratnapura
District MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara who said the government has suspended
investigations on death threats against the Speaker as the probe on
phone details had revealed the name of a henchman of Foreign Minister
Mangala Samaraweera. Issuing death threats to the Speaker of Parliament
is a national issue which should be probed immediately. The
investigators working on details of where the phone call originated had
found that it was from a phone belonging to Ruwan Ferdinandez, an ally
of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and thereafter the
investigations had been suspended, MP Nanayakkara said.
Raising a point of order MP Nanayakkara urged the Speaker to hold
an immediate investigation on the anonymous telephone call received
by the Speaker and added that it was a crucial matter that affects the
supremacy of Parliament. The Speaker received telephone calls after the
Joint Opposition staged a protest demanding that it be recognised as an
Independent Group. The MP said that many suspected that the caller was
some one from the Joint Opposition.
MP Nanayakkara requested the Speaker to trace the anonymous caller
using the new technology and inform the House of the final outcome. The
MP also told the House that they wished to know how far the
investigations had progressed because the Speaker had reportedly said
that he had pardoned them. At this point, the Speaker told the MP that
he did not mention anything about pardoning and added that the
investigations would continue.
Amidst speculation and concerns raised by the Opposition members, the
Premier on Tuesday, February 23 gave a detailed response to the
much-debated issue of the Indo-Lanka Economic and Technical Cooperation
Agreement (ETCA). He told the House that ETCA would be inked by mid-2016
and a special Indian delegation would arrive in the country on March 4
to discuss the agreement and added that the final draft of the Agreement
would be prepared after the discussions. The Premier said he would not
let anyone instigate people against the ETCA. Referring to the ETCA, the
Premier said we promised to give birth to a child whose horoscope has a
Raja Yoga. So do not worry to check the horoscope of a child yet to be
born and find fault with the ETCA. He told the Opposition MPs who make a
mountain of a molehill on ETCA that public roads are not the place to
debate the Agreement and added that dragging the matter is unfair and
also an insult to the Agreement as it can be will debated in Parliament.
However, responding to the Premier's remarks, Chief Opposition Whip
Anura Kumara Dissanayake told the House that the public fears were not
unfounded as the subject Minister had said that the agreement would open
the IT and marine sectors to Indians. The Framework Agreement would be
signed this month so that the concerns they raise in Parliament will
have a strong basis.
The absence of government Ministers during the question hour to
respond to the queries by the Opposition MPs was once again highlighted
in the House on Friday (February 26) when the Chief Opposition Whip
Anura Kumara Dissanayake told the Speaker that Law and Order and
Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayake was not in the Chamber to
answer his question on the promotions of junior Police officers.
When he raised a similar question the previous day too, the relevant
Minister was not in the Chamber, he said. The Speaker told the MP that
he would complain to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe against the
Ministers who failed to be present in the House during the question hour
to answer queries by the Opposition MPs.