Opposing views on the chaos in Parliament | Sunday Observer

Opposing views on the chaos in Parliament

The three-day Parliamentary sittings turned into chaos owing to the stance taken by the Speaker to pass a No Confidence Motion (NCM) against the Government on Wednesday through a vote taken by voice which the Government legislators claimed is a violation of Standing Orders, Parliamentary Traditions and the Constitution. The tense situation in the House was aggravated the following day when the UNP led Opposition called for a vote on the statement made by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Finally, Government legislators conducted a mock sitting with UPFA MP Arundhika Fernando shouting slogans and demanding the immediate arrest of UNP MPs Palitha Thewarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake for bringing knives into the Chamber. The situation worsened when the Speaker along with a large posse of Police personnel entered the Chamber from a side door and took a seat in the Opposition benches with a hand-held microphone, placed the NCM against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa before the House and had it passed by a voice vote. Government members, furious at the stance taken by the Speaker to arbitrarily suspend the Standing Orders and pass the NCM, shouted and hurled books and other documents at the Opposition MPs while some in the public gallery began booing the MPs. Several Opposition MPs and Parliament Police personnel sustained injuries, and a few Opposition MPs came under attack from water mixed with chilli power.

Several Government legislators during their mock sitting went near the Speaker’s Chair and addressed the House. Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Bandula Gunawardena, Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Pavithra Wanniarachchi made speeches. Government law makers at press briefings held in the parliamentary complex said the arbitrary conduct of the Speaker while disregarding Standing Orders, rules and traditions had paved the way to create this political turmoil. Both the UNP and the JVP also held a series of press conferences in the Parliamentary complex, expressing regret over the incidents that happened in the House, calling it a disgrace to the dignity and decorum of the House.

Here are some excerpts of comments by Government and Opposition Parliamentarians :

Leader of the House and Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Dinesh Gunawardena-

Wednesday (November 14) was the most tragic day in the Parliamentary history of the country. The Speaker by his arbitrary action made a blunder, insulting all Parliamentarians. Following the fundamental rights petitions filed, the Supreme Court has temporarily suspended the gazette notification issued by the President to dissolve Parliament and stated that it would give its determination on December 7. Therefore, a decision was taken to reconvene the Parliament on November 14.

Minister Gunawardena said the Speaker blatantly violated Parliamentary traditions. His intention is to create a situation of anarchy in the country. We vehemently condemn the arbitrary action of the Speaker.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr.Sarath Amunugama-

The Supreme Court order is not a determination. It only says that the judges need more time to listen to the different parties who make submissions, the counter submissions and come to a decision. It has not made a determination on the President’s gazette notification. There are standard procedures within Parliament. The agenda for November 14 clearly says that the Secretary General of Parliament will read out the proclamations issued by the President proroguing Parliament and summoning the meeting Those are only the two elements which were in the November 14 Order paper. TNA MP Sumanthiran also made a statement which was not put to the vote because every suspension of the Standing Orders must require the consent of a majority of MPs in the Chamber, so that action was not taken.

Minister of National Integration, Reconciliation and Official Languages- Vasudeva Nanayakkara

Parliament is a necessary and essential feature for the Executive to function. But if the Parliament resorts to hostile activity, then the Parliament has to be dissolved according to the powers vested in the President. That is what the President did. That is what is being questioned and now the matter has gone to Courts. We won’t condone the Speaker’s attitude of disregarding rules and procedures which we call ultra-vires.

Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva -

The removal of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is legal. The seating arrangements for the Government Ministers had been made based on their seniority. So Parliament has unanimously accepted the appointment of a new Prime Minister and the Cabinet. It was on the Parliament agenda that the House would meet on November 14 at 10 am to read out the President’s proclamations to prorogue Parliament, and reconvene it. However, the Speaker completely rejected that agenda.

Minister of Housing and Social Welfare Wimal Weerawansa -

Due to circumstances, Parliament has been reconvened. But we have not seen foreign ambassadors and foreign correspondents (such as BBC and Al Jazeera) come to report when Parliament was reconvened. We should question why they want to observe this situation and why TNA MP Sumanthiran wanted to suspend the Standing Orders, and how JVP MP Vijitha Herath hurriedly gave a document to the Secretary General.

Minister of Health Chamal Rajapaksa-

It was regrettable to note how the Speaker conducted himself. There are Standing Orders to be followed by the Speaker and there is a board of Secretaries to instruct him. When a vote is called in Parliament, the Speaker should silence the House or adjourn the House for a few minutes. All what happened in the well of the House on November 14 is illegal.

Minister of Highways and Road Development S.B .Dissanayake-

The President removed the Prime Minister constitutionally. The Cabinet became defunct due to the decision taken by the UPFA to quit the Government. Subsequently, the Premier post fell vacant. Therefore, the President appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister whom he thought has the required public mandate. The Speaker attempts to create an anarchy in the country.

UNP Parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa-

Don’t be surprised by what has happened. It shows that democracy has prevailed and worked. What took place on the floor of the House makes it absolutely unnecessary for politicians to give new interpretations.I think the President is capable of coming to his own conclusions regarding future steps. What we should do for our motherland is to ensure that democracy prevails. Democratic process entails that the majority should be given the opportunity to govern. So Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Leader of this alliance of parties with the United National Front at the helm should be given the opportunity to form the Government.

UNP Parliamentarian Dr.Rajitha Senaratne-

The UPFA disrupted the business of Parliament the way they took the entire country to a standstill. The UPFA has formed a ‘fake government’, behaved like thugs inside the Chamber because they clearly understood that their ‘fake Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’ and ‘the fake Cabinet’ do not command the majority of the House. 

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