Let’s move forward with new political culture - pm | Sunday Observer

Let’s move forward with new political culture - pm

House shaken, as MPs clash on Wednesday
House shaken, as MPs clash on Wednesday

Pandemonium reigned in Parliament on Wednesday (January 10) when the Joint Opposition (JO) MPs stormed into the well of the House as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe began to make a special statement on the Treasury Bond issue, finally ending up in fisticuffs between the JO and Government MPs. Thereafter, the House was adjourned for an urgent Party Leaders’ meeting, following the Premier’s speech.

The JO launched their ‘drama’ holding various posters on the Bond issue when the Prime Minister was on his feet. Later they stormed into the well of the House demanding to table the Presidential Commission report on the Treasury Bond issue. The JO MPs continuously interrupted the Prime Minister’s speech uttering various slogans. Despite heavy disturbances, the Premier continued his speech and the House adjourned for the Party Leaders’ meeting soon after the Premier wound up his speech. After the suspension, there was a heated exchange of words between some Government and JO MPs and several UNP backbenchers attempted to tangle with JO MPs, when MPs from both sides intervened to settle the brawl. UNP MP Kavinda Jayawardena, arguing with the JO MPs fainted and fell down in the middle of the House and was taken out of the Chamber.

Ugly scenes unfolded in the House ending up with MPs bleeding, files torn up, and documents strewn all over the floor of the Chamber. Later, the JO MPs and UNP backbenchers clashed, hurling files, documents and posters at each other.

UNP MP S.M. Marikkar and JO MP Gamini Lokuge were seen coming to blows, followed by JO MP Prasanna Ranatunga and UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri. The Prime Minister with several other Ministers, attempted to bring the situation under control, but the Ministers prevented him from advancing in the direction of the brawl.

The Prime Minister making his statement told Parliament this is the first time in Sri Lanka’s history that an investigation was carried out on the Bond issue in a fair, unbiased and expeditious manner. The Premier described it as a special victory for the National Unity Government established on January 8, 2015 and added that after a lapse of ten years, they were able to once again bring the country’s financial control under the Legislature.

New political culture

Premier Wickremesinghe further said, at present the Treasury Bond issue has become a politicized topic. It has become a fine goldmine for the various media, political parties and mudslinging factories. The Prime Minister reiterated, the President and he are committed to establish a new political culture in the country. As the experience is unfamiliar, there could be inadequacies and wrongs that occur, but we must correct them and move forward.

Soon after the brawl in the House, the UNP, SLFP Government faction, JO and the JVP held separate press briefings in the parliamentary complex to express their views.

Cabinet Spokesman and Health Minister Dr.Rajitha Senaratne addressing the weekly Cabinet press briefing held at the parliamentary complex told the media that most of the Presidential Commission reports were not even made public during the previous regime. Those who clamour today didn’t make any noise during the previous regime asking to table those Presidential Commission reports. The President has instructed to send the Bond Commission report to Parliament on January 17. The Minister said this is the first time a Presidential Commission report is going to be presented in Parliament. The Bribery Commission will further investigate it and take necessary legal action. If necessary, it can also be referred to the Special Courts that are to be established.

The loss resulting from the Treasury Bond issue has been estimated at Rs.11 billion. The Central Bank has however, retained with it Rs.12 billion belonging to Perpetual Treasuries. A special forensic inquiry would be performed on the Treasury Bond issue to ascertain the economic loss incurred by the country. The Presidential Commission has not done this. Such a task cannot be fulfilled by the COPE or a Presidential Commission. So, it is a good beginning, and would help ascertain the damage caused to the economy through the issuance of Treasury Bonds during the period 2008 to 2014 amounting to Rs.4,000 billion. The UNP backbenchers who held a press conference at the parliamentary complex vehemently condemned the drama enacted by the JO, undermining the dignity and decorum of the House.

UNP MP Nalin Bandara said, the JO and other parties didn’t have a genuine interest to debate the Bond Commission report. They should have requested to summon Parliament after checking whether the Commission report had been tabled in Parliament or not. Thirty four Presidential Commission reports have not yet been received by the Presidential Secretariat. By enacting a ‘drama’ on the Bond Commission report, certain sections attempt to prevent the landslide victory to be achieved by the UNP at the upcoming LG polls. The UNP would never defend crooks, we would always express the truth.

UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri said, two factions through the Treasury Bond drama attempt to drag democracy in different directions. The JO always attempts to turn Parliament into a ‘pora pitiya and kolam maduwa’. The Treasury Bond trap has been designed to destroy the UNP and we are well aware who is behind the ‘drama’. Good governance means, frauds committed by Ministers of both parties should be investigated.

Same strategy

UNP MP S.M. Marikkar told the media, the President should also appoint a Presidential Commission to probe the Treasury Bond issuance that took place from 2008 to 2014. Thirty four Presidential Commission reports have been handed over to the President, all of which should be made public. This same Presidential Commission should be given the task of investigating the Treasury Bond issues from 2008 to 2014. Marikkar said, the JO adopted the same strategy over the past two years to sabotage the proceedings of the House.

It was the JO which first started to assault Government MPs. While I was held by MP Sisira Jayakody, MP Gamini Lokuge assaulted me so that I had to retaliate. Deputy Minister of Finance and Mass Media, Lasantha Alagiyawanna said, all fair and law-abiding citizens are satisfied with the Presidential Commission inquiry on the Treasury Bond. Even after the report was handed over to the President, some who had no understanding expressed various views to gain narrow political objectives. This is the first time a President has taken steps on this kind of a Commission report. The President or the SLFP do not wish to cover up the Bond report.

Minister of Special Assignments Dr. Sarath Amunugama said, it is absurd for some Government and JO members to cause bloodletting in a brawl on an unseen report. They have not seen even the cover page of the report, but fought each other and shed blood. Dinesh Gunawardena MP said when they pointed out the possibility of getting the bond commission report from a relevant officer, the Speaker turned down their request and provided the opportunity to the Prime Minister to make a statement.

MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara said, when the opportunity was given to the Prime Minister to make a statement even before the Bond Commission report was tabled in Parliament, they can’t remain silent in the House, and so expressed their opposition.

MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage said, the Government under the pretext of the Bond Commission report misled the Speaker and MPs by convening Parliament. The Government attempts to prevent the report being tabled in Parliament until the end of the LG polls.

Addressing the media at the parliamentary complex, JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said, at the Party Leaders’ meeting held on January 9, the Government promised to table the Bond Commission Report and 34 reports submitted by the Special Presidential Commission appointed to probe major cases of corruption. Instead of doing so, the Prime Minister tried to use the parliamentary session as an opportunity to make a statement. If the Premier and the Speaker had known that the reports were not available, they should have postponed the parliamentary session because we did not come to listen to a statement of the Prime Minister. Therefore, both, the Prime Minister and the Speaker should take responsibility for the unfortunate situation in the House on Wednesday.