Joint Opposition seeks Geneva redress
A Joint Opposition (JO) delegation went on a mission to Geneva to the
Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) seeking redress for recognition and
parliamentary privileges which they claim they have been denied.
The Joint Opposition members who participated in the mission said the
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong told them that he would facilitate
a dialogue between Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and the Joint Opposition to
reach consensus on the issue.
However, Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala said he doesn’t
understand, how the IPU can get involved in an internal political party
matter and added that the Joint Opposition’s problem is not that of the
Parliament and their issue is based entirely on former President Mahinda
Rajapaksa as they have recognised him as their leader.
He is neither the leader of the SLFP nor of the UPFA, but the Joint
Opposition still believes he is their leader. Merely because some UPFA
members are having a problem among themselves, Parliament cannot change
its rules, he said.
Joint Opposition members Dullas Alahapperuma, Bandula Gunawardane and
Udaya Gammanpila who met the IPU Secretary General in Geneva on March
31, highlighted six main issues in their letter to him.
They are, the recognition of a party leader who has only 16
parliamentarians in the House as the Leader of the Opposition, giving
the post of the Chief Opposition Whip to the JVP which has only six MPs
in Parliament, not being given an adequate representation for the Joint
Opposition in committees such as COPE and PAC, Ministers intolerably
taking a long time to reply the oral questions raised by the Joint
Opposition members, bad precedent by the Prime Minister himself by
giving irrelevant answers to the oral questions and the use of the FCID
as a political witch-hunt against the Joint Opposition members.
Asked what made the Joint Opposition delegation to bypass Parliament
and seek solace from the IPU, UPFA Colombo District MP Udaya Gammanpila
who represented the delegation told the Sunday Observer if the Joint
Opposition had been fighting for its rights in the House over the past
seven months, they failed to convince the Speaker about the logic of
their demands and, therefore, they decided to complain to the IPU which
acts as a trade union of parliamentarians.
However, international bodies such as the UNHRC and the IPU were
anathema to the UPFA throughout the years. When asked about the Joint
Opposition’s mission to the IPUwhether it was a mere test or publicity
stunt, MP Gammanpila said they don’t have faith in the IPU.
“Our visit to the IPU had twin objectives. First is that the
incumbent government pretends to the world that now Sri Lanka is
enjoying a vibrant democracy,” he said.
“But the truth is that the people have been denied the democratic
rights they enjoyed before January 8, 2015. Hence, we want to expose the
true face of the incumbent government. Secondly, we want to see the
IPU’s reaction to our complaint, because when Tamil separatists make a
complaint, the UNHRC and the UN body take very serious notice and pass
resolution after resolution,” Gammanpila said. UPFA Matara District MP
Dullas Alahapperuma told the Sunday Observer that they went to Geneva to
meet the IPU Secretary General and not to bow down before the ‘white
men’ as claimed by government politicians and the state media. These are
mere utterances by them.
“But when looking at these ‘dramas’, we derive some sort of pleasure
as the state media and politicians are trying to fill the gap of veteran
comedians Annesley, Berty and Samuel. If a parliamentarian has faced any
injustice or difficulties in fulfilling his public duties, the IPU is
the sole body that they can go to and complain,” he said.
Alahapperuma said following a request by the IPU Secretary General, a
group of Joint Opposition MPs visited the IPU headquarters in Geneva.
“The IPU Secretary General patiently listened to our grievances and
took note of the issues highlighted by us.
He realised that there is some sort of problem. He told us that he
discussed this issue with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya when he met him in
Lusaka as well,” he said.
“He also told us that he would visit Sri Lanka and discuss with all
parties concerned. He also gave us a copy of the book printed by the IPU
on safeguarding the rights and privileges of parliamentarians. During
our meeting with the IPU Secretary General, we proved with facts on the
problems faced by the Joint Opposition Members in Parliament when
Members are appointed to the Parliamentary Select Committees and also
difficulties faced by us to make statements under the Standing Orders
23(2),” Alahapperuma said.
Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala told the Sunday Observer that he
is happy that the Joint Opposition was seeking the support of the IPU
and it is the right of any Member of Parliament.
“We as the members of the IPU can address any of our grievances. If
that is the case, the IPU standards have stipulated certain practices. I
think at the end of the day, even Parliament has given the recognition
to the so-called Joint Opposition and they have been given what they
should get,” he said.
“I don’t know whether they want to curtail the assistance given to
them. The Joint Opposition doesn’t understand that the Speaker has no
power to intervene with any political party or an Independent group and
he has no right to do so,” Sumathipala said.
“The UPFA has to resolve its own problems within their party. Whoever
doesn’t want to accept positions in the UPFA is free to represent
himself as an independent person or a group in Parliament and we have
not denied that right. So far, Parliament has been very consistent. Just
because the UPFA is having a problem among themselves, Parliament cannot
change its rules,” he said.
The Deputy Speaker said it is very sad to note the manner in which
the Joint Opposition Members conduct themselves in Parliament. Their
issues are not relevant to the public. They act like the sole
representatives of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“We have a lot of respect for the former President who was the leader
of the SLFP and the UPFA. But most of the issues pertaining to the Joint
Opposition are not political issues. They should resolve their internal
problems within the party rather than using Parliament as the forum,” he
“We too are members of the IPU. Parliamentarians are entitled to its
membership. The Joint Opposition should understand that it doesn’t give
membership to Members of Parliament. We are also a part of the IPU. It
is an international body which articulates advice and comes up with a
consensus on what is good for the global parliamentary system,”
“If a Member of Parliament is assassinated or being treated in an
unlawful mannar with political motives, we can understand it. However, I
don’t understand, how far the IPU can get involved in internal political
party matters. It is a hundred percent UPFA problem and not a matter
beyond that. If they can show under any Article, Standing Order or
Clause, Speaker or Deputy Speaker have not entertained their rights, we
are willing to listen to them,” he said.
“The so-called Joint Opposition knows very well that their problem is
not Parliament. Their issue is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as
they have recognised him as their leader. That is their right to
exercise, recognise and believe, but that is a totally independent,
individual and domestic matter with the UPFA,” the Deputy Speaker said.