By Saman Indrajith
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday informed Parliament that he recognised Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Leader of the Opposition. He also recognised UPFA MP Mahinda Amaraweera as the Chief Opposition Whip.
However, UNP and TNA opposed the recognition of Rajapaksa as the Opposition Leader and called him the leader of a group of strangers in the chamber.
Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella said that as per the Standing Orders, those who were not MPs or Parliament employees could not come to the chamber and such strangers should be removed forthwith. “Today, we have a group of strangers sitting in the seats of the Opposition. If any MP resigns from the party from which he entered Parliament, he or she loses the MP post. Such person cannot be considered an MP. Those who resigned from the SLFP cannot occupy the seats allocated for that party. That matter does not need to go before court. Their MP posts would come to an end at the lapse of one month after leaving the SLFP.”
The Opposition MPs shouted at the statement made by the Leader of the House.
Leader of the House Kiriella: Let’s argue and debate. But the fact remains that those who left the SLFP are not entitled to hold seats allocated to that party. SLFP members are elected from the UPFA ticket. Around 60 per cent of those UPFA MPs are now in the Flower Bud party. They are no longer MPs.
Speaker Jayasuriya: I will look into that matter.
UPFA MP Chandima Weerakkody: Today, a dictator runs parliament. Is this democracy?
TNA MP MA Sumanthiran: The post of Opposition leader goes to the party which has the highest number of seats in the Opposition. The question here is whether the UPFA is a party in the Opposition. Leader of the UPFA is the head of state and also the head of the Cabinet. He holds three ministerial posts. The leader of the UPFA represents the executive so it is not ideal for his party to represent the Opposition. There are strangers in the House, they should be removed. We should appoint a special committee to solve this crisis. We should find out whether their party membership is valid. We request the Speaker not to appoint the leader of the Opposition until that matter is solved. We should not let the Constitution to be violated any further.”
Speaker Jayasuriya: You can make a written submission. I will give my decision.
MP Ajith P Perera: If a person comes to parliament as a member of a party and then joins another party then he would lose his seat. This is a serious matter. We propose that a parliament select committee be appointed to investigate this matter.
MP Susil Premajayantha: Members of six parties elected to parliament from the August 17, 2015 election. The parties are the UNP, the UPFA, the JVP, the TNA, the EPDP and the SLMC. There are several parties within the UPFA. None of them has been elected to parliament from the SLFP ticket. There is no SLFP representation but UPFA representation. Therefore, the UPFA is the largest party in the Opposition. There is no barrier for a member of the UPFA to be appointed the Opposition Leader.
MP Udaya Gammanpila: MP Sumanthiran says that Mahinda Rajapaksa is not entitled to hold the opposition leader post on the grounds that there is a UPFA president as the head of the executive. But his argument is wrong. There has been a precedent; D.B. Wijetunga was the President and Gamini Dissanayake from the same party held the post of Opposition leader. While Chandrika Kumaratunga was the President, a member of her party held the post of Opposition leader. None of UPFA MPs have resigned. Has the UPFA General Secretary informed anyone of any resignations?
Speaker Jayasuriya: No, I will look into the matter.
MP Rauff Hakeem: Former President is an MP today. We think that the matter of the appointment of Opposition Leader should be decided by a special committee. The chairman of the Elections Commission should be summoned and asked for the composition of the UPFA and as to how it contested the election.
MP Dinesh Gunawardena: The Speaker himself recognised the UPFA as the biggest group in the Opposition ranks. He also recognised Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Opposition Leader. We should proceed with the business of the House.
Leader of the House Kiriella: Chandrika Kumaratunga held only the post of president, she did not have ministerial posts.
MP Vijithamuni Zoysa: Today, MP Indika Bandaranayake and I joined the government as SLFP members. The country was in anarchy. We have joined the right side.