Govt stands up to all and sundry
The issue of national reconciliation turned into a hot topic on the floor of the
House following an exchange of words between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
and Colombo District UPFA MP Wimal Weerawansa which led the Premier to inquire
from MP Weerawansa whether he is in favour or against promoting national
reconciliation. Responding to a query by Weerawansa, the Premier told the House
he was not aware of any institution by the name of Task Force for National
Reconciliation headed by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as
alleged by the MP.
The Premier told MP Weerawansa if he so desires, to call former President
Kumaratunga who was his old friend, and verify the truth.
The Premier also queried whether he could not remember that he joined hands with
her to form a Government sometime back. Weerawansa, dissatisfied with the
Premier’s response, said, he raised a question and desired a responsible answer
and not enact a comedy. When the Premier reminded Weerawansa that Chandrika
Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was his one time friend, the MP retorted that their
friendship has since expired, but that the Premier has become her new friend.
The Premier told the MP in lighter vein that he and Chandrika were friends since
childhood, and both attended the same dancing class. Are you against
reconciliation, the Premier demanded from MP Weerawansa. This led to an argument
between the two. The MP said, there was no point in the Prime Minister asking
questions from him when it is the legitimate role of the Opposition MPs to ask
questions from the Prime Minister and the Government Ministers.
It was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who agreed with Ban Ki-moon to set up
a war crimes tribunal and MP Weerawansa too supported him. All including MP
Weerawansa opposed it when they got cold feet that they too would be hauled
before the court, and that is the true story, the Prime Minister said. However,
such matters ended with the advent of Maithripala Sirisena’s presidency. MP
Weerawansa said it was former President Rajapaksa who brought about
reconciliation by ending the war and his Government never agreed with anyone to
set up a war crimes tribunal.
The MP said, today one could very well enjoy the dividends of the so-called
peace and reconciliation at the turn of events in the country. He pointed out
that Sinhala students in the Jaffna University are being assaulted and chased
away. The angry MP told the Premier that there is no point asking questions from
a Prime Minister such as him.
JVP Kalutara District Parliamentarian Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa called upon the
Government to set up a special ward at the National Hospital and name it ‘FCID
ward’ to accommodate Opposition members being taken into custody over various
allegations. He told the House the FCID under Minister Sagala Rathnayake is
arresting opposition politicians, producing them before courts, putting them
behind bars and finally transfering them to the Colombo National Hospital.
He queried whether the FCID is arresting only sick people. He asked why
politicians fall sick in this manner when arrested, and stressed the need to set
up an FCID ward at the National Hospital. Responding to it, Law and Order and
Southern Development Minister Sagala Rathnayake said, the FCID does not arrest
only the sick and added that those who fall sick when remanded recover overnight
and could even join protest walks on being granted bail.
Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunawardena charged that the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs had acted in an irresponsible manner by calling for suggestions from the
international community regarding a special judicial tribunal. The MP who
participated in the adjournment debate alleged the Foreign Affairs Ministry had
directed the Lankan Embassy in Washington to seek suggestions from the Sri
Lankan Diaspora and other lobbies in America, regarding the mechanism to
establish a special judicial tribunal in Sri Lanka.
He queried, how could the Foreign Affairs Ministry issue such a notice when
President Mairthripala Sirisena has categorically stated that no foreign
individuals will be permitted to participate in investigating the alleged human
rights violations in Sri Lanka. MP Gunawardena told the House, he doubted
whether the President or other Ministers were aware of these actions and asked
how the Foreign Affairs Ministry has by-passed Parliament. MP Gunawardena
stressed the need to change the Government’s mechanism of suppressing all voices
against the Government. He alleged the Government used the illegally established
FCID to suppress political opponents.
The number of consultants recruited to the Road Development Authority (RDA) led
to a big hue and cry in the well of the House, following a question raised by
JVP Kalutara District MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa. The MP who read out a long list
of names alleged that political henchmen of the UNP had been given the jobs at
He said, two consultants from one family have been appointed for the same
project while a Buddhist monk was appointed as a consultant. Responding to it,
Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella said, 56 consultants
were recruited to the RDA.
The Minister, justifying the appointments said, the Government was inclined to
recruit persons who helped the UNP to secure victory at the last Presidential
and General Elections as consultants to various projects under the RDA. MP
Jayatissa told the House, of the 56 consultants, only two had Advanced Level
qualifications and the rest either only Ordinary Level or less.
He queried what sort of consultancy can be expected from people with such
Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary and Agriculture Minister Duminda
Dissanyake hinted that the National Government will continue for five years and
no one would be able to topple it.
Addressing a media briefing at the Parliament complex the Minister said, the
SLFP and the UNP signed the Memorandum of Understanding to form a Government of
Consensus for only two years, but the mutual understanding between the two
parties is more important than the MOU to continue as a strong Government.
He described the Government of Consensus as a proposed marriage and the two
parties have been able to work together peacefully and added that proposed
marriages are more successful than love marriages.