By Saman Indrajith
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday said the status quo would remain as regards the post of the Opposition Leader in Parliament. It is currently held by TNA Leader R Sampanthan.
Making a special announcement at the commencement of sittings yesterday, the Speaker said that his final decision was that the constitutionality and Parliament tradition did not warrant any change in the post of the Opposition Leader.
Jayasuriya, however, assured that he would allocate more time and grant more space in Parliamentary committees for the Joint Opposition in keeping with the number of MPs within its ranks.
The Speaker’s ruling was in response to the JO’s special written request on August 1 that the post of the Opposition Leader be given to JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena. The JO demanded the post claiming that it has the support of 70 MPs.
The Speaker, in a detailed statement, said he has arrived at that decision, after a careful study of the composition of the current Parliament and the international best practices. He said all arguments made on the floor of the House last Tuesday on the post of Opposition Leader and opinions of experts on Parliamentary democracy has been taken into consideration in arriving at his decision.
The Speaker made it clear that the Opposition Leader post must be held by a person who was not from a political party now in the government. He pointed out the Parliamentary Resolution adopted on September 3, 2015 clearly stated that the UNP and UPFA were partners of the current National Government.
The Speaker pointed out the context in which MP Nimal Siripala de Silva had served as the Opposition Leader during the interim period after January 8, 2015 was different to the present context as there had not been such a Parliamentary Resolution of a National Government then.
He explained that the Parliamentary Group Leader of a recognized political party that did not represent the government and had the highest number of seats should be given the Opposition Leader’s post. He noted that Sri Lankan and UK Parliamentary tradition as well as precedence were clear in that regard.
However, MPs Dinesh Gunwardena, Chandima Weerakkody and Dullas Alahapperuma spoke against the Speaker’s decision, but the Speaker said that his ruling should be considered final and thus it could not be debated.
MP Alahapperuma questioned whether the Speaker would change the decision if the JO MPs left the UPFA and became independent. Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella replied that the JO MPs should first become independent for the House to consider such a request.