By Ashwin Hemmathagama
Parliament yesterday voted in favour of the motion to cut off budgetary allocations made to the Prime Minister’s Office and pledged to take similar steps regarding the rest of the Cabinet Ministries appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena post- 26 October, which will be taken up today(Nov 30).
The motion, signed by UNP lawmakers Navin Dissanayake, Ravi Karunanayake, Nalaka Prasad Colonne, Dr. Kavinda Heshan Jayawardana, Hector Appuhamy and Chathura Sandeepa Senaratne, challenged the use of funds by MP Mahinda Rajapaksa after two votes were taken on a no confidence motion earlier this month. The motion received 123 votes in its favour and zero votes against it as the Parliamentarians supportive of Rajapaksa decided not to attend Parliament.
A subsequent motion was presented by a group of parliamentarians including UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake to block access to public funds by the secretaries of Cabinet ministries appointed after 26 October by President Maithripala Sirisena. This motion will be taken up in the House today(Nov 30).
According to the motion, the Parliamentarians held that the Secretary to the Prime Minister had no authority to approve any expenditure drawn from the funds of the republic as a no confidence motion against the Government was passed on 14 November 2018 in Parliament.
Moving the motion, MP Karunanayake highlighted the misuse of public money by the purported Government during the last 30 days while requesting state officers to stop executing illegal orders.
“The helicopter rides of the last 30 days of this purported Government have cost Rs. 8.4 million. We need to stop this. We request the state employees to follow regulations and not to get into trouble listening to wrong political decisions. Lalith Weeratunga, who was a recognised state officer, got into trouble having listened and followed illegal instructions,” said MP Karunanayake.
Karunanayake proposed that the Government formed by President Sirisena and Rajapaksa should step down and requested the President to join hands with the UNP to take the country forward.
UNP MP Navin Dissanayake, who seconded the motion, confirmed to the House that Parliament was vested with the authority of public finance as per Article 147 of the Constitution.
JVP Leader MP Anura Dissanayake confirmed to the House that they would not support a negotiated settlement with President Sirisena.
“This was a premeditated conspiracy of the President in which he blatantly and deliberately violated the Constitution. Our attempt is to make the President act in line with the Constitution. When the first citizen of the country disobeys the rules and laws, how can one expect the ordinary public to respect those laws? We have no faith discussing it with President,” he said.
According to him, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe should also vacate Temple Trees supporting the facts of the motion.
“Similar to the purported Prime Minister having no rights over the Prime Minister’s privileges, the earlier Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also has no rights to enjoy the same privileges. I saw the UNP local government members having a meeting at the main hall in Temple Trees. We do have similar meetings with the JVP MPs at the party office. You can have such meetings in Sirikotha but not at Temple Trees. The UNP can’t use public money to pay the electricity bills for the halls used for party politics,” he added, requesting MP Wickremesinghe to vacate the premises soon.
However, UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella denied using public funds to pay the electricity bills at Temple Trees.
“We have private donations to look after the expenses at Temple Trees,” MP Kiriella said.
UNP MP Rauff Hakeem held that the concept of separation of powers and the way in which the three important institutions of State – the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary – have different competencies and a careful balance was required to meet the paramount expectations of all law-abiding citizens.
“The office bearers of each of these institutions should be mindful not to trespass on the others. If that doesn’t happen none of these problems could have arisen. What has happened is there was little realisation of how the 19th Amendment was meant to curtail the powers of the Executive President. We say the decision of the President to remove Wickeremesinghe is ‘ab initio’ void. That matter is now before the Supreme Court. Therefore, we cannot come to the conclusion that Ranil Wickeremesinghe is illegally occupying Temple Tree, the official residence of the Prime Minister. He has respected the verdict of the people and honourably left when the verdict of the people was otherwise,” said MP Hakeem.
Delivering a strong speech, JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake criticised MPs crossing over and the UNP for accepting them back.
“The UNP needs a Kumara Welgama in its group to speak straight that they cannot sit together with betrayers in a Government in the future. We are happy the constitutional coup is half defeated in the Judiciary, fully defeated in the Legislature on several occasions and fully rejected by the public,” said MP Rathnayake.
Rathnayake also proposed two Parliament Select Committees – one to study how the country’s laws were breached since 26 October and another to assess economic damages to the country from it.
However, joining the debate, UNP MP Dr. Rajitha Senaratne expressed his personal willingness to go for a negotiated settlement allowing the Constitutional crisis to reach an end.
“If you are raising a white flag, we earnestly look forward to it. We are more concerned about what is right than who the individuals behind it are. The country is at a huge crisis and the innocent people should not suffer as a result of it. We appreciate the self-confidence and backbone of the Speaker and his name will be written in gold in the country’s history. The Speaker may talk to the President immediately to come to a settlement and if the President is not ready for any settlement. We pledge to fight this battle to the end,” Dr. Senaratne noted.