Opposition Leader post: JO to flex muscles | Sunday Observer

Opposition Leader post: JO to flex muscles

UPFA General Secretary and Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera will inform the Speaker tomorrow, August 6, regarding the UPFA’s stance on the official request made by the Joint Opposition (JO) for the post of Opposition Leader.

The UPFA has not yet taken a final decision on this issue. “I will discuss it with the party hierarchy and other party seniors and officially inform the UPFA’s stance to the Speaker tomorrow,” Minister Amaraweera told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

Earlier last week, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya wrote to the UPFA General Secretary seeking the party’s opinion of the JO’s proposition to appoint Parliamentarian Dinesh Gunewardena, as the Opposition Leader, as it has the support of 70 MPs in the Opposition.

The JO front liners said that if they don’t receive a favourable response from the Speaker when Parliament resumes on August 7, they would resort to stern action in and outside Parliament.

Eight JO MPs in a letter addressed to the Speaker on July 30 requested that the JO which comprises 70 MPs along with the 16 SLFP MPs who recently crossed over to the JO be given the Opposition Leader’s post to their MP Dinesh Gunawardena. However, the Speaker in a letter to UPFA General Secretary Amaraweera on August 2, requested him to clarify the UPFA’s stance on the JO’s demand.

However, highly informed sources confirmed that the majority of the 24 SLFP MPs in the Government have not given their consent to offer the Opposition Leader post to Gunawardena. JO front liner Ranjith de Zoysa told the Sunday Observer that if the Opposition Leader’s post is not offered and the JO is not duly recognised in Parliament, they would move a No Confidence Motion against the Speaker.

He said the JO expects a favourable response from the Speaker when Parliament meets on August 7. He warned that if the Speaker repeats the same old answer given to JO’s request over the past three and half years, the JO’s response would also not be that favourable.

Zoysa said they would never accept any decision by the UPFA General Secretary on this issue. If the UPFA acts on decisions taken by Amaraweera, it will have to suffer serious consequences in the future. He said what the JO demands is not the merely the Opposition Leader’s post, but the rights and privileges which the main Opposition is entitled to, as it commands the support of nearly one third of the MPs in Parliament.

The JO heavyweight said when 39 JVP MPs quit the Probationary Government in 2004, they were recognised as a separate parliamentary group.

Citing a precedent, he said when the SLFP MPs were also there in Hundred Day Government formed in January 2015, the Opposition Leader’s post was given to MP Nimal Siripala de Silva.

Meanwhile, some legal experts have expressed views for and against the issue. A legal expert said that the JO is not a recognised political party in Parliament so that there is no possibility of acceding to their request. He added that the JO which is a mere parliamentary group has no right to demand the Opposition Leader’s post until they organise themselves into a separate political party.

However, another legal expert confirmed that there was no legal barrier for the JO to obtain the Opposition Leader’s post. There is no special provision in the Constitution on the appointment of the Opposition Leader and the person who commands the consent of the majority of MPs in the Opposition can be appointed as the Opposition Leader, he said.