Brickbats for Viggy in Parliament | Sunday Observer

Brickbats for Viggy in Parliament

30 August, 2020

The controversial speech by Jaffna District Parliamentarian C.V. Vigneswaran at the inaugural session of the ninth Parliament turned into a hot topic during the two-day debate on the Vote on Account on Thursday and Friday.

A heated debate arose in the well of the House as some Government and Opposition lawmakers were highly critical of Vigneswaran’s controversial remarks and demanded that it be expunged from the Hansard, pointing out that he was trying to fuel animosity between communities and promote racist politics.

MP Manusha Nanayakkara raising a Point of Order said that the speech by MP Vigneswaran was in the unedited version of the Hansard. MP Nanayakkara pointed out that MP Vigneswaran’s statement with regard to a Tamil homeland in the North and the East of the country was against the oath we have taken and demanded that it should be expunged. However, it has been printed in the Hansard. This should be revised and the controversial statement expunged.

Responding to the allegation, Speaker Abeywardena told Parliament that every MP had a right to speak and express his or her views freely and that right was ensured in the House and that MP Vigneswaran’s opening statement with references to the Tamil homeland concept would not be expunged from Hansard.

Participating in the debate on the Vote on Account, SJB Gampaha district Parliamentarian Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told MP Vigneswaran not to try to emulate Velupillai Prabhakaran by making racist statements because he (Vigneswaran) was too old for that.

Field Marshal Fonseka said that Vigneswaran must keep in mind that there were others in the past who attempted to undermine the status quo of the Sinhalese and were eventually shot dead. LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabakaran also attempted to divide the country and create a separate State but suffered a similar fate.

“Settle down. Be happy with what you have. Never try to underestimate and undermine the status quo of the Sinhalese in this country. If you do that you will face consequences, which will be very unpleasant,” he said.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said Vigneswaran’s claims about the earliest inhabitants of Sri Lanka being Tamils are untrue. “I have challenged him to a public debate on this matter. The people of the North are ready to cooperate with the people in the South. They have given more preferential votes to Minister Douglas Devananda than most other Tamil politicians.”

On Friday, August 28, Parliament approved the Vote on Account of the Government. The Vote on Account seeking approval to spend a sum not exceeding Rs.1,300 billion from September until December, was presented to Parliament on Thursday, August 27.

It was passed on Friday without a division. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa presenting the Vote on Account, said the Government will review all project loans amounting to around Rs. 9 billion.

The Premier said that around half of the loan basket comprised foreign loans and the time had come for the Government to give priority to investment promotion rather than depending on loans.

He said when his Government handed over the reins of power in 2014, the growth rate of the economy had been between five and six per cent. That situation deteriorated gradually and at the end of 2019 it became the lowest growth rate in South Asia at 2 per cent.

Premier Rajapaksa said that all 225 MPs had a responsibility to revive the national economy and called on them to team up with the President and the Government to develop the country.

In continuation of the much discussed topic on SLPP Parliamentarian and former President Maithripala Sirisena being given a government position, Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge said that the ruling party has not agreed to grant him a ‘Deputy Premiership’ as speculated in the media.

He said the party should be consulted in this regard, emphasising that such a decision has not yet been taken, despite endless comments by various figures during the elections.

Minister Lokuge told reporters, “During Elections, promises were made to grant ministerial portfolios to a number of people. Now that the election has been won, and questions surface as to why they were not granted ministries. Politicians tend to say many things during an election to secure votes.”

Earlier SLFP General Secretary and State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara after attending the first sitting of the ninth Parliament told reporters that discussions are under way to vest former President Sirisena with Government titles and this will probably take place after the 20th Amendment to Constitution is passed in Parliament.

However, SLPP Chairman Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris told a recent news briefing that there was no official discussion within the Government to create a ‘Deputy Prime Minister’ post when making Constitutional amendments.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa speaking during the debate on the Vote on Account said all members of the ruling party have a responsibility to honour the two-thirds mandate given by the people at the August 5 General Election and abuse of power will not be tolerated.

Minister Weerawansa made these remarks responding to the eco disaster committed in the setting up a prawn farm in a forest reserve of the Anawilundawa Sanctuary. The Minister said although he is not aware of who is responsible for this damage, he is certain that some powerful figure of the Government or their associates are responsible, and the Government cannot slip away from the responsibility of protecting this reserve.

He said the reserve has been named the ‘Ramsar Wetlands’ due to its highly valuable ecosystem. The Government should take steps to stop this environmental damage, as the people have given them a mandate to protect the country and its people, he said.

UNP leadership stakes

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Legal Secretary of the UNP informed the Party Working Committee (WC) which met at Sirikotha recently that since Karu Jayasuriya was not a member of the WC he cannot be appointed as the Party leader.

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in a statement shot back at the UNP members who have said that he cannot become the Party leader because he is no longer a member of the party.

The veteran politician said that he is a lifetime member of the UNP as he obtained the 1000M card in 2000. The 1000M card is equal to a 50-year membership. However, the WC failed to reach a consensus even after three hours of deliberation regarding the National List slot and changes to the Party.

Jayasuriya had earlier expressed willingness to take over the UNP leadership. The letter sent to Wickremesinghe in this regard had been discussed and several senior members said since Jayasuriya was not a member of the WC, a decision should be taken only after he joins the WC.


Divergent views had been expressed regarding the leadership crisis and former Minister Vajira Abeywardena had levelled several allegations against Jayasuriya. Abeywardana had thrown his lot into the fray and said that he is qualified to lead the party and the party should only give leadership to someone who is committed to the Party.

The SJB has said that it will launch a countrywide people’s movement to safeguard the freedoms and rights granted to the average citizen by the 19th Amendment.

Silly statement

SJB Parliamentarian Rajitha Senaratne told the media at the SJB headquarters that the Government was in a hurry to bring the 20th Amendment so that dual citizens can be appointed to Parliament. He said, “This is to enable Basil Rajapaksa to enter Parliament and be appointed as a Minister or even the Prime Minister.”

Responding to Senaratne’s claim, Government lawmakers said if President Gotabaya Rajapaksa could withdraw his dual citizenship to contest the Presidential Election, SLPP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa can also follow the same steps and there is no need to bring the 20th Amendment for that purpose. They said these petty issues are highlighted by the SJB to cover up their humiliating defeat.

Government lawmakers said that if the SJB says that the Government is attempting to introduce the 20th Amendment to bring Basil Rajapaksa back to Parliament, it is a childish and silly statement.

Refuting the claims by some SJB MPs, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris told the media that President Rajapaksa has a moral and legal right to hold the Defence Ministry portfolio as the defence of the country is a part of the necessity and content of executive power.

Prof. Peiris said, “The current Defence Minister is President Rajapaksa, we argue that according to Section 3 and 4 of the Constitution that portfolio should be held by him.”

He said that a Government is formed to ensure the security of the country and thereby protect the lives of the people. “The chief of the Government executive branch is the President, it is clear in these sections of the Constitution that the security of the country is a part of the executive power and it mainly rests in the hands of the President.”

Leader of the House Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said the Opposition attempted to destabilise the country economically and politically during the Covid-19 pandemic without cooperating with the President and the Prime Minister.

During the second day of the debate on the Vote on Account, Minister Gunawardena said that despite the Opposition’s obstructions, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa successfully overcame the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Sri Lanka was brought back to the world map. Sri Lanka is one of the most successful countries in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic for which, we have to accept, we needed money, funding, so the expenditure had to be met by the President’s orders under the Constitution. We have come today before the House to get the Vote on Account approved for the next few months. The budget will be presented in November by the Prime Minister,” Minister Gunawardena said.


State Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, Rear Admiral (Rtd.) Sarath Weerasekara on Thursday challenged Tamil MPs in the Opposition to prove that they have genuine concern for the welfare of the Tamil people.

Participating in the debate on the Vote on Account, Minister Weerasekara said that so-called representatives of the Tamil people would not even donate blood for the people they represented.

“I ask them if they have ever donated blood for their own people. When the Jaffna Hospital runs out of blood it is the Sinhalese soldiers who donate blood. The Vellalas will never donate their blood as they don’t want the low caste people to receive their blood.

“These are the very people who are talking about the aspirations and welfare of the Tamil people. They don’t have the right to talk about the aspirations of the Tamil people. We have a greater right to talk about the Tamil People,” he said.

The State Minister said that if anyone is trying to instigate youngsters and create hatred between the Sinhalese and Tamils and is laying the foundation for another conflict, then their true nudity should be exposed.

Parliament canteen

The price and cost of heavily subsidised meals provided to the MPs in the Parliament canteen were raised afresh by SJB Colombo District MP S.M. Marikkar.

Raising a Point of Order MP Marikkar said that there were newspaper reports stating that a meal of an MP costs Rs 3,000.

“People ask whether we eat gold here. The fish served this morning in the parliamentary canteen was not fresh. That is the quality of food being served to MPs. We eat better at home. Someone has to correct this situation and tell the truth. This had been stated at the orientation program for MPs on August 25. The correct figures must be given.

“I am speaking on behalf of all 225 MPs. The impression the reports created is wrong. It seems that the cost of all who eat here is totalled and divided by 225 to arrive at the conclusion that one meal costs Rs 3,000,” he said.

Speaker Abeywardena said that he would present a detailed bill of the expenditure on the food in Parliament soon. He said the cost of meals per MP is around Rs. 296, adding that the cost had been incorrectly calculated by the officer by dividing the entire food cost by 225.