Sandasen Marasinghe and Disna Mudalige
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that he will not allow for the establishing of a new tradition of breaching the existing Standing Orders as long as he is in the chair.
When Social Empowerment and Welfare Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake was about to answer a question raised in Parliament on government lands in the Divulapitiya electorate,the opposition members questioned his right to answer the question creating a tense situation. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that if the relevant Minister or his deputy was not available in the House, the Prime Minister, Chief Government Whip or the Leader of the House may answer the question.
“I will not allow for the establishing of a new tradition of breaching the existing Standing Orders while I am in the chair,” Speaker Jayasuriya said. Then,Chief Government Whip and Parliamentary Affairs and Mass Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilake answered the question.
When Gampaha District Joint Opposition Parliamentarian Indika Anuruddha raised a question from the Lands Minister on the instructions of the Speaker on government land extension at Divulapitiya in the Gampaha district, Deputy Minister Ramanayake began to answer the question. “Indika Anuruddha has asked a question from the Lands Minister on the government’s land extension in Divulapitiya saying it would be tabled in due course,” the Deputy Minister said. “Divulapitiya is destroyed, the Deputy Minister said.” At this stage, opposition members began to cause a disturbance with Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake stating that this question was asked of the Lands Minister.
Deputy Minister Ramanayake added that if the Minister or his deputy were not available in the House,a Cabinet Minister could answer it. “Or else the Chief Government Whip or the Leader of the House could answer the question,” the Deputy Minister said. “How could a deputy minister answer this question? This is going to be a new Parliamentary tradition”. At this stage the Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella questioned as to why the opposition is afraid of the answer. He added that this was a timely issue and the people need to know the truth.
“Under Standing Order 26,27 the Prime Minister could assign a minister to answer a question when the relevant Minister or his deputy was not present in the House,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said. “So, I assigned Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake to answer the question.”
“Let’s abide by the Standing Order.That’s better,” Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said. “We don’t need to establish a new tradition. We can take Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake’s matter separately later. Now the Chief Government Whip may answer.”
At this stage, Chief Government Whip Minister Gayantha Karunathilake rose to to answer stating that the Premier had assigned Deputy Minister Ramanayake to answer the question. The Premier adding said that he could assign any one to answer the question.
At this stage,Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella said according to Standing Order 27, the Prime Minister is vested with powers to assign anybody to answer the question. “The issue is that you don’t accept it,” Minister Kiriella said.
At this stage,Chief Government Whip Karunathilake said that he would answer the question and Deputy Minister Ramanayake assisted him.