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Sunday, 10 April 2016

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Much ado about MRís security

Joint Opposition members enacted a Ďdramaí again in Parliament on Wednesday protesting against a government decision to reduce security provided for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Joint Opposition members who made a hue an cry in the Chamber accused the government of putting the former Presidentís life in jeopardy following the recent detection of a suicide jacket, explosives and ammunition in Chavakachcheri. Amidst the uproar created by the Joint Opposition members, Leader of the House and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella told the House that the government had provided adequate security to the former President as they too want to guarantee his security.

The Joint Opposition members launched their protest following the special statement by UPFA Colombo District MP Dinesh Gunawardena who alleged that the government had decided to remove the Army Commandos deployed for the former Presidentís security.

Gunawardena in his hard-hitting remarks demanded to know whether the government would change its latest decision and ensure the safety of the former President. The MP attempted to emphasise that in the context in which a suicide jacket, explosives and ammunition had been recovered in Chavakachcheri, it is extremely dangerous to remove the specially-trained Commando unit from the former Presidentís security division. MP Gunawardena along with other Joint Opposition members demanded to reverse the government decision and restore the security of the former President.

Minister Kiriella told the House that former President Rajapaksa has already been provided 206 security officers with 103 Army personnel and 103 police officers as part of his security contingent and added that it is not the government that is putting the former Presidentís life in danger, but the Joint Opposition members by revealing the details of his security arrangements to the public.

He also told the vociferous Joint Opposition members as to how the former UPFA government completely removed the security detail of the then Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka soon after the 2010 Presidential election by making him an easy target to his enemies.

Breach of security

Minister Sarath Fonseka endorsing the point raised by Minister Kiriella drew the attention of the House to the fact that former President Rajapaksa had obtained a Supreme Court order to reduce the security detail of an ex-President and said that he was the only person in the Security Council who objected to the move. Minister Fonseka said the revelations in Parliament regarding the security of the former President Rajapaksa were a mistake and a breach of security.

Chaos broke out in Parliament on Wednesday when government legislators failed to state the exact number of Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers within its ranks. Raising a Point of Order, UPFA Matara District MP Chandrasiri Gajadeera demanded to know the actual number of Ministers and Deputy Ministers in the government. As government legislators made various statements without revealing the actual number, the Joint Opposition members rose to their feet shouting in protest.

Justice and Buddasasana Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe assured the House that he would give the exact number of Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers on Thursday.

He said in lighter vein that this was not a matter to be raised in the House. The answer was so simple if the number of members of the Joint Opposition who joined the government is added to the numbers in the Cabinet, he said.

Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Minister Gayantha Karunatilake told Parliament the following day that there are altogether 92 Cabinet, State and Deputy Ministers and invited the Opposition MPs to join the Government and be rewarded with ministerial portfolios as a national government was in power.

Independent Group

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya responding to a request by NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa to recognise the NFF as an Independent Group in Parliament told him to take up the matter with the Secretary General of Parliament if the NFF MPs wanted to act as an Independent Group. If the NFF leader succeeds in his efforts arrangements could be made to provide all privileges they are entitled to as a separate group in Parliament, the Speaker said.

MP Weerawansa said the history of Sri Lankaís Parliament had enough precedents where breakaway groups acted as Independent in Parliament. Citing an example Weerawansa said when the JVP left the Peopleís Alliance government and demanded to recognise them as an Independent Group, their request was acceded to.

The Constitutional Assembly met for the first time on Tuesday and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected unanimously as the Chairman of the Steering Committee which is charged with the task of preparing a new constitution for the country.

When the Constitutional Assembly met Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Chief Government Whip, Minister Gayantha Karunatilake proposed the name of Premier Wickremesinghe to the post of Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Assembly and twenty MPs as members of the Steering Committee. Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella proposed the names of seven MPs for the posts of Deputy Chairmen and was seconded by TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran.

Members of the Joint Opposition on Tuesday handed over a No-Confidence Motion against Megapolis and Western Province Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

The motion was signed by 42 Joint Opposition MPs. Minister Ranawaka had abused his powers by influencing a police investigation on a traffic accident in Rajagiriya where two youth were injured and thereby breached the confidence reposed in him, they alleged.

 

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