Can Opposition MPs go on state visits? - Harsha | Sunday Observer

Can Opposition MPs go on state visits? - Harsha

Following the two recent foreign tours of President Maithripala Sirisena to the Philippines and Singapore, a key member of the Government has questioned the legitimacy of the President accompanying Opposition MPs on state visits.

Non-Cabinet Minister of Economic Reform and Public Distribution, Dr. Harsha de Silva told the Sunday Observer that it is highly questionable as to how a group of Opposition MPs could participate in a state tour and join in bilateral discussions.

President Maithripala Sirisena visited the Philippines on January 15, on a five-day state visit, where he accompanied Opposition UPFA MPs, Dilan Perera, Sriyani Wijewickrama, Nishantha Muthuhettigamage, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Sarathi Dushmantha, Angajan Ramanathan and Weerakumara Dissanayake. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thilak Marapana was the only Government representative, which clearly shows that the Opposition members outnumbered Government representatives on the Philippine visit.

The President was in Singapore on January 23, on a two-day tour where he delivered the keynote address at the Third Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific during his visit.

Apart from President Sirisena, no Cabinet Minister, Deputy Minister or State Minister went on this tour while the General Secretary of the SLFP, MP Dayasiri Jayasekara, National List UPFA MP S.B. Dissanayake and UPFA MP Mohan Lal Grero had met the Singapore Prime Minister.

“I was once the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, I know how this works. In any event, when a Government delegation should participate, why should Opposition members participate? How can Opposition MPs discuss Government policies? Imagine, a group of Opposition MPs of the country negotiating with a group of state officials of those countries. This is nothing but a joke,” Dr. de Silva said. Despite several attempts, Minister Marapana was not available for comment.

However, a senior officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Sunday Observer that the President has the right to decide on the delegation of a foreign state tour. “The President who was accompanied by Minister Marapana on the state visit to the Philippines. The Singapore tour was not a state visit and, therefore, Opposition MPs attending it is not a problem,” the Ministry official said.