By Saman Indrajith
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesighe’s candidate MP Ananda Kumarasiri defeated SLFP Maithree-faction candidate Dr Sudarashini Fernandopulle by 44 votes to secure the post of Deputy Speaker in parliament yesterday.
MP Kumarasiri received 97 votes while MP Dr Fernandopulle received 53 votes. One vote was declared invalid.
Matara District UNP MP Buddhika Pathirana proposed the name of Moneragala District UNP MP Ananda Kumarasiri for the post of Deputy Speaker. It was seconded by Kurunegala District MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha.
UPFA MP SB Dissanayake said: This is a position allocated to the SLFP. Therefore, an SLFP MP should be appointed to this post. I propose the name of Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle for the post of Deputy Speaker.
MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara seconded MP Dissanayake’s proposal.
Opposition Leader R Sampanthan said that when the yahapalana government was formed there was an agreement on the posts of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chairman of Committees. As per the agreement the post of Deputy Speaker should go to the SLFP. “There is a proposal with a name from the SLFP. We can go ahead if we act according to the agreement. I also favour the name of Dr Fernandopulle for the post” Sampanthan said.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe rejected the statement made by the Opposition Leader, saying that the agreement mentioned by Sampanthan was to have a UNP MP as the Speaker and an SLFP MP of the government as the Deputy Speaker. As per the agreement the post of Deputy Chairman of Committees should be given to the Opposition. “We did so. The Deputy Speaker post is now vacant. The SLFP could propose the name of one of their MPs within the government ranks. The SLFP made a proposal, but some parties disagreed. There was no more SLFP backbencher MPs in the government. Giving that post to an SLFP MP in 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 has been made by the UNP to appoint a government rank backbencher to the post. We hope the Opposition leader would support us.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that two names had been proposed and seconded for the post of Deputy Speaker in Parliament and therefore a secret vote would have to be taken as per the Standing Orders. He moved the House for a vote and ordered ringing the quorum bell. After the bell was rung for five minutes, parliament officials brought in a screen and a desk to be set up in the middle of the Well of the chamber. Another employee showed the house an open ballot box.
Each MP was given a ballot card to write their name, signature and the name of the MP for the post of Deputy Speaker.
After the Speaker announced that the voters should write their names and place signatures along with the name of the MP to be elected, Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that it would not be counted as a secret vote if the voters reveal their identity.
Speaker Jayasuriya asked MPs not to harbour any doubts and assured that he would ensure secrecy.
Voting commenced around 3.10 pm. Both JVP and TNA MPs abstained. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe started voting. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was not present at the time of voting.
When the JVP MPs walked off the Chamber, 11 JO members followed them to the parliament canteen. After the JO members TNA MPs, too, walked out of the chamber. The eleven JO members who abstained from voting and remained in the canteen when the voting was in progress were Shehan Semasinghe, Kanaka Herath, Mohan P de Silva, Ramesh Pathirana, Kanchana Wijesekera, DV Chanaka, Piyal Nishantha, Kumara Welgama, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Tharaka Balasuriya and Chamal Rajapaksa. Some other JO members were seen casting their votes.
MP Kumarasiri thanked all those who had voted for him.
Dr Fernandopulle wished MP Kumarasiri and thanked all those who had voted for her. “It was a historic occasion. This is a parliament where speakers and deputy speakers had been appointed. Today is the first occasion a name of a woman was proposed for the post.”