By Ashwin Hemmathagama
The appointment of MP Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Opposition Leader was challenged yesterday in parliament by ITAK MP Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, who held that he is the Opposition Leader unless the Speaker decides otherwise and removes him.
According to MP Sampanthan, the Speaker will have to remove him from the post before appointing a new Opposition Leader, regardless of the UPFA membership issue hovering around MP Mahinda Rajapakse. Speaker recognised MP Sampanthan as the Opposition Leader in September 2015 and in August 2018.
MP Sampanthan held that there is no need to recognise another person as the Opposition Leader in haste in a situation where Cabinet is not yet appointed, and Government is not yet formed.
Meanwhile United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera handed a letter to Speaker Jayasuriya, stating that MP Mahinda Rajapaksa is a member of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Addressing the Parliament, MP Sampanthan held that MP Rajapaksa’s Parliament seat has been vacant for over a month with him obtaining of membership of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).
“The person recognised by the Speaker as the Opposition Leader does not even hold the position of MP as of the date of such recognition. This, again, suggests the Speaker’s decision has been taken in haste, and it is in violation of our Constitution,” said MP Sampanthan, who was adamant that appointing a member of the United People›s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) as the Opposition Leader while its leader Maithripala Sirisena is the Executive, Head of Government, and Head of Cabinet, is incompatible, and such matters must be sorted out through a Parliament Select Committee.
MP Sampanthan urged the Speaker for early action before the matter becomes an issue. “I request early corrective action, in the interest of the country as a whole, be taken to preserve the sanctity of our Constitution,” he told the House.
Meanwhile, ITAK lawmaker M. A. Sumanthiran tabled three recent newspaper articles as evidence that MP Mahinda Rajapaksa ceremonially obtained SLPP membership on 11 November. Along with MP Rajapaksa, several other key lawmakers in the UPFA, including his son MP Namal Rajapaksa, obtained membership in the SLPP, which was widely reported in news media.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader UNP MP Rauff Hakeem pointed out that Parliament is in chaos again over the appointment of the Opposition Leader. “Former President Rajapaksa became the former Prime Minister and now he has become a former MP. Once you obtain the membership of another party, automatically your membership ceases. This will be proven before a Parliament Select Committee. One of the most popular political leaders in this country has been made a political orphan. Unfortunately, that is what you have done,” he said.