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Sunday, 09 October 2016






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Government Gazette

‘JO tries to create communal disharmony’ - Opposition Leader

Both, Government and Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday launched heavy flak on Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha for his refusal to respond to a query by UNP Badulla District MP Chaminda Wijesiri regarding a bank account of the Uva Province Chief Minister Chamara Sampath Dasanayake. The legislators accused the Minister of deliberately refusing to answer the question, as he was alleged to have provided legal counsel to the Uva Province Chief Minister.

Raising his question, MP Wijesiri demanded to know whether the Minister was aware that a bank account of the Uva Provincial Council had been used for personal transactions by its Chief Minister and asked the Minister to tell the House whether it complied with existing financial and Provincial Council regulations, and the steps that will be taken against this alleged illegal and improper transaction. Minister Musthapha attempted to convince the House that it referred to a personal bank account and the MP’s question had an ulterior motive to defame the Uva Province Chief Minister, and he would not respond to such questions in the House.

This led to an uproar in the well of the House and both Ministers, Kabir Hashim and Ranjth Madduma Bandara berated Minister Musthapha for his refusal to answer a question raised by a fellow MP. Minister Hashim who fully refuted the Minister’s claim told him, a Parliamentarian can raise any question in Parliament and the Minister concerned is bound to answer him and he cannot refuse to do so. Some Government and Opposition members who fully endorsed the point raised by Minister Hashim categorically rejected Minister Musthapha’s response given to the MP. Minister Madduma Bandara who also expressed his displeasure over Minister Musthapha’s remarks told the House that Ministers should not deprive the rights of MPs to ask questions in Parliament, while the Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayaka too criticized the Minister’s refusal to answer the question.

MP Dissanayake told the House, this is the second time the Minister has refused to answer this question. UPFA Colombo District MP Wimal Weerawansa alleged that Minister Musthapha was providing legal counsel to Uva Province Chief Minister and hence he was shielding him. However, MPWeerawansa told the House in a lighter vein that “it is like asking the whereabouts of a thief from his mother, with the intention of tracing him (Horage ammagen pena ahanawa wage).” MP Weerawansa alleged that it was Minister Musthapha’s legal firm that gave counsel to the Uva Chief Minister to help him get away from the fraud he is allegedly to have committed.

The Joint Opposition (JO) members expressed their concern when the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill was presented in Parliament by Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella. They alleged that, for the second time the Bill has been presented in an irregular manner, that it had been gazetted before it got the approval of the Cabinet. Soon after the Bill was presented, UPFA Colombo District MP Bandula Gunawardena pointed out that the Bill had been published in the gazette before it got Cabinet approval. MP Gunawardena told the House that the proper procedure is to get Cabinet approval before being published in the gazette. The Bill received Cabinet approval on September 12, whereas the gazette was issued on September 9. Responding to the JO members, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said, if there was a dispute, the Bill could be challenged in Court and added that he will accept the State Finance Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena’s stance on the Bill.

However, Parliament was thrown into turmoil the following day when Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena tabled two letters from the Attorney General and the Government Printer with regard to the VAT draft Bill which the Opposition alleged had been gazetted before it was approved by Cabinet. Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella told the vociferous JO members that there is a tradition in Parliament that a Bill can be presented in the House, and this is Parliament and not an AGA’s office. MP Bandula Gunawardena responding to Minister Kiriella said, the Kachcheri is a better place than this Assembly as it has better order. Minister S.B. Dissanayake who also endorsed Minister Abeywardena’s position said, a Minister is vested with the power to gazette a Bill before sending it to the Cabinet. Minister Abeywardena said, both, the Attorney General and the Government Printer recommend that we accept the gazette dated September 13 as the correct one. MP Wimal Weerawansa who countered the Minister’s statement queried what it meant. The Speaker said, they called for the letters from the Attorney General and the Printer because there was some disagreement and added, he doesn’t see anything wrong in it. MP Weerawansa again attempted to resist the Speaker. The Speaker then warned MP Weerawansa to take his seat, and told him that he gave a ruling on the issue the previous day and warned the MP not to threaten him. State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe said, if anyone has a doubt or disagreement, he can go to courts.

MP Dinesh Gunawardena attempted to make a hue and cry on the floor of the House on the recent statement by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran expecting the Government’s response, and added that the statement was detrimental to national security. MP Gunawardena alleged, the Chief Minister has flouted the Constitution by making contradictory remarks against the country, its people and Buddhism. Minister Lakshman Kiriella said the JO was always trying to hold on to something to realize their narrow political objectives. Minister Kiriella said, the Chief Minister has denied the media reports and added that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would give a detailed response to the query raised by MP Gunawardena. Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan said, the Chief Minister had complained that the media had attributed some statements to him which he did not utter with regard to the situation in the North. Sampanthan alleged the JO tried to instigate people against the Northern CM and create communal disharmony.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in response to the question raised by MP Gunawardena assured Parliament on Friday that the process of making a new Constitution would continue unhindered by the statements made by various individuals, both in the North and the South. The Premier stressed that the new Constitution would be formulated by the Constitutional Assembly and the Steering Committee, and would not be influenced by any Chief Minister. Various people make various requests, but let us proceed with what the majority of the people and all political parties in this House agree, he said.

JO front liner and UPFA Colombo District MP Udaya Gammanpila told Parliament that he had submitted a written complaint against Minister Sarath Fonseka for disturbing him during parliamentary sittings and told the Speaker that he had failed to take any action against him. MP Gammanpila made these remarks following a heated argument with MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka during the Oral questions session.


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