By Skandha Gunasekara
UNP candidate Ananda Kumarasiri was elected Deputy Speaker of Parliament yesterday, defeating the SLFP candidate Dr. Sudharshani Fernandopulle with a majority of 44 votes.
The voting, done through a secret ballot, took close to two hours to complete and resulted in 97 voting in favour of Kumarasiri while Fernandopulle received 53 votes.
The process began at around 2.30 p.m. when UNP MP Buddhika Pathirana nominated MP Kumarasiri for the post of Deputy Speaker, which was seconded by UNP MP Nalin Bandara Jayamah.
UPFA MP S.B. Dissanayake then proposed Dr. Fernandopulle for the post of Deputy Speaker.
“This is a position allocated for the SLFP, therefore an SLFP MP should be appointed. I nominate MP Fernandopulle,” he said.
Dissanayake’s proposal was seconded by UPFA MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara.
At this point, Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan pointed out that at the inception of the Yahapalanaya Government an agreement had been reached regarding the posts of Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Committee Chairman.
“As per the agreement, the post of Deputy Speaker is due to the SLFP. There is a proposal with a name from the SLFP. We should go ahead with the SLFP nomination if we are acting according to the agreement. I also favour the name of Dr. Fernandopulle for the post,” the Leader of the Opposition said.
However, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe refuted the remarks of the Opposition Leader, pointing out that the Government and the UNP had agreed to the initial SLFP nomination of Jaffna District SLFP MP Angajan Ramanadan and that it had been the TNA which had opposed the nomination.
“As per the agreement, the post of Deputy Chairman of Committees should be given to the Opposition and we did so. The posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker must be filled from within the Government ranks according to the agreement. The post of Deputy Speaker is now vacant. The SLFP should propose a name of one of their MPs in the Government ranks. The SLFP made a proposal but it was the TNA that disapproved. There aren’t any more SLFP backbencher parliamentarians in the Government. Giving that post to an SLFP MP in the Government would not be a problem. Giving that post to an SLFP MP in the Opposition would violate the agreement. Both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker posts belong to the Government. Therefore, a proposal had been made from the UNP to appoint a Government rank backbencher to the post. We hope the Opposition Leader will support us.”
Thereafter, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that two names had been nominated to fill the post of Deputy Speaker and thus a secret vote must be taken in accordance with the Standing Orders of Parliament. He then moved the House to vote.
Each MP was given a ballot paper to write their name, signature and the name of their preferred nominee.
House Leader Lakshman Kiriella then noted that it could not be a secret ballot if the voting MPs wrote their names on ballot papers.
The Speaker asserted that the process was to write the name of the voting MP on the ballot paper and assured the House that the utmost discretion would be maintained in this regard. Both the TNA and the JVP abstained from voting, which began at around 3.00 p.m. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was also not present to cast his vote.
After the results were calculated and the winner announced, Kumarasiri thanked all those who voted for him in the secret ballot as well as the voters of his electorate who voted for him at the last Parliamentary Election.
The defeated Dr. Fernandopulle wished Kumarasiri well and thanked all those who voted for her.
“It was a historic occasion. This is a Parliament where speakers and deputy speakers have been appointed. Today is the first occasion a name of a woman was proposed for the post. It was a woman who has been defeated today in this Parliament. I thank all those who voted for me,” she said.