Despite drama : JO fails to get early date for NCM debate | Sunday Observer

Despite drama : JO fails to get early date for NCM debate

The Joint Opposition (JO) on Wednesday enacted a big drama in Parliament demanding an early date to debate the No Confidence Motion (NCM) they handed over to the Speaker against Minister Rishad Bathiudeen. The drama reached the climax when a group of JO MPs stormed the well of House and protested against the Government for its failure to give an early date to the NCM. The Speaker had to abruptly suspend sittings for the next day due to the uproar created by the JO members. The Government law makers maintained the stance that the issue should be first referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to probe the charges leveled against Minister Bathiudeen. Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella told the vociferous JO members that they should realize according to the parliamentary tradition, it is entirely up to the Government to fix a date for the debate and not the Opposition.

Before proceedings of the House commenced JO Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena told the Speaker that a NCM against Minister Bathiudeen signed by over 60 JO MPs had been handed over to him. He said this particular NCM is not related to a normal fraud or corruption committed by a Parliamentarian but to an alleged involvement of a Government Minister. It is the most dangerous incident that took place in the recent past which shocked the entire country. MP Gunawardena said the Leader of the House has no power to prevent debating such an important motion and that power is entirely vested with the Speaker. Gunawardena raised the point if attempts are made to prevent the debate of this NCM in Parliament, it would have a serious impact on democracy. The majority of the Muslim community has categorically rejected this extremist terrorist group. The Speaker told MP Gunawardena that he has already included the NCM in the Parliament Order Paper and added that it is not his task to fix the date and it is a business of the Government.

Minister Kiriella said the date of the JO’s NCM is wrong. It is a shame that 64 JO MPs who signed the NCM didn’t note this. He said the UNP studied the NCM and found that it contains only mere allegations and there is no evidence to prove them. The sole purpose of this NCM is to sling mud at the Government and we cannot permit it. If there is evidence, the JO can produce them at the PSC. Even if the media had any serious allegations against Minister Bathiudeen, it can furnish them to the Select Committee. The Government during the past three years permitted the JO to debate almost all NCMs presented by them in Parliament. If the JO or any other Opposition MP has any evidence against Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, they can provide such information to the Select Committee.

However, the issue raised by MP Dinesh Gunawardena entailed a series of arguments between the Government and Opposition law makers on the NCM. Among a large number of Government and Opposition MPs who expressed their views on this matter, some of them appeared to be very emotional while some others were aggressive and ventilated their anger over the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. Sometimes, there were heated arguments between the Government and Opposition members and some MPs even resorted to unparliamentary language to respond to their opponents. The tense situation in the House further aggravated when Minister Bathiudeen attempted to respond to the allegations against him by the JO members. He denied all the allegations against him which are included in the NCM. Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa requested the Speaker to immediately fix a date to debate the NCM against Minister Bathiudeen as this is backed by the people of this country.

Deputy Minister Ameer Ali who responded to the allegations leveled against Minister Bathiudeen by the JO members said this is a NCM against the entire Muslim community in the country. The JO MPs who categorically rejected the Deputy Minister’s claim pointed out the NCM against Minister Bathiudeen has nothing to do with the majority of innocent Muslims. Deputy Minister Ali queried as to why the JO didn’t bring in a NCM against IGP Pujith Jayasundara and former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando. If Minister Bathiudeen is wrong, take him to courts and send him to prison yet it has to be done in an ethical manner, he said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the House if the majority is of the view to debate the NCM, the Speaker can fix a date for it. At this point, all the JO MPs who rose to their feet demanded a date then and there. As the Speaker didn’t give a positive response to their demand, a group of JO MPs came to the well of the House and staged a protest. The Government MPs were also seen responding to the protesting JO MPs in a heated manner. Amidst the uproar in the House, the motion moved by Minister Kiriella to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee to probe the Easter Sunday incident was passed in Parliament. UNP National List MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickramarathne also brought an amendment to give PSC powers to investigate any Parliamentarian or Governor who had allegedly extended support to terrorists responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage. Representing the UNP, UPFA, TNA and JVP, 40 MPs had presented a resolution requesting an appointment of a PSC to ascertain as to why authorities had failed to prevent the terror attacks despite having advance intelligence on the impending strikes.

However, the Speaker on Thursday (May 23) announced in Parliament that the NCM against Minister d Bathiudeen would be taken up for debate on June 18 and 19. When the Speaker made the announcement, JO front liner MP Wimal Weerawansa protested to the chair that the debate on the NCM should be taken up on June 6 and 7. Members of both Government and the Opposition exchanged heated words over Weerawansa’s demand. Weerawansa said the sittings of the Parliament would commence on June 4 and hence the debate could be taken up on June 6 and 7. The Prime Minister said the dates on the NCM debate should be decided by the Parliamentary Business Committee and the Speaker. The Premier said of the two NCMs against a Minister and the Government, the latter is more serious. “Hence according to Erskine May’s principles, the NCM against Government should be taken up first for debate,” he said.

During the parliamentary proceedings both the Government and the Opposition MPs expressed divergent views on the PSC and the NCM against Minister Bathiudeen. The Joint Opposition and the JVP members categorically stated that there is no connection between the NCM and the PSC. They held the firm view that the PSC should be confined only to probe the Easter Sunday attacks and the reasons as to why the authorities failed to take remedial measures to prevent that disaster. The JVP MPs told the House the NCM against Minister Bathiudeen should be first taken up for debate and their NCM against the Government should be debated later. JVP MP Vijitha Herath also pointed out the Government has no right to postpone the NCM against Bathiudeen. JVP Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the Government under the pretext of PSC attempts to probe the charges against Bathiudeen. Dissanayake stressed the PSC should not submit any interim report before the debate on the NCM against Bathiudeen is taken up in Parliament. MP Dissanayake said the composition of the PSC members should be equal. The PSC and NCM are completely two different issues and these two should not be mixed up.UNP National List MP Prof. Ashu Marasinghe said the people are anxiously waiting to see who is held responsible for Easter Sunday attacks. The PSC can also investigate the allegations leveled against Minister Bathiudeen. The Parliament is the real forum to prove whether the charges against an MP are right or wrong.

Commencing the debate on the Foreign Exchange Act, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said despite the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, the country’s basic economic indicators are stable at present. When MP Wimal Weerawansa attempted to raise a question with Minister Samaraweera, the Speaker asked the MP to do so after the Minister wound up his speech. As a passing remark when the Speaker mentioned, the other day MP Weerawansa wanted to round up Parliament. Minister Samaraweera said there is no use of blaming Weerawansa as such revolting ideas are in his genes.

Incidentally it was his brother-in-law who years ago launched a bomb attack in Parliament. The Minister further said bankrupt political parties and groups once again attempt to create a Black July and Sinhala-Muslim riots in the country. Certain elements attempt to brand the entire Muslim community as terrorists. Over 90 percent of Muslims are opposed to extremism and we were able to destroy the extremist terrorism due to the support extended by majority Muslims.