New Prime Minister pledges to rebuild nation | Sunday Observer

New Prime Minister pledges to rebuild nation

22 May, 2022

New Tourism and Lands Minister Harin Fernando said that accepting a ministerial portfolio at this critical juncture is a challenge.

He said, “It is not my opinion that we should seek political gains at this moment.” Although he had accepted the position, he has not forgotten the demands such as the resignation of the President and bringing back the 19th Amendment as the next amendment to the Constitution.

The Minister also stressed that he would become an independent MP in Parliament if anyone attempts to interfere in the work of the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment.

Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said the economic and political crisis cannot be solvedby countrywide protests adding that his decision to join the new Government is a very risky one, as it can even ruin his future political journey. He, however, said everyone will be satisfied if the new Ministers are able to find solutions to the crisis.

Agreement reached

Representatives of 10 parties reached an agreement with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday to support the proposed National Council and Parliamentary Sectoral Committees (PSC) comprising all party leaders.

The agreement was reached during a recent discussion between the Prime Minister and members of 10 parties at the Prime Minister’s Office. However, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya Leader and SLPP Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila said that his group informed the Prime Minister that they would not accept any ministerial post in the Government.

He said that they will extend their support to the Prime Minister for his efforts to uplift the country. He said that the Prime Minister informed them that everyone should unite without party affiliations to help the country recover from the present situation. They told the Premier that they wrote a letter to the President on April 8 proposing an All-Party Government in the country. He said that the Prime Minister wants to get all parties involved and in the governance of the country.

Media freedom

Making a statement regarding the incident where the mobile phones of two Parliamentary journalists were taken into custody by two Government MPs and the response by the Speaker following an investigation, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said that irrespective of whatever regulations, it was a common practice for journalists to obtain voice cuts from MPs following COPE and COPA meetings and various other instances.

He said that it was a general practice for journalists to obtain these voice cuts on their mobile phones, cameras or any other form. Therefore, the Opposition Leader told the Speaker that if there was any specific regulation regarding the access granted to journalists, it was not being implemented or practiced thus far. The Speaker said that the journalists covering the Committee Room Lobbies or Committee Rooms must have special permission from the Sergeant-At-Arms.

He said that investigations have revealed that the two journalists in question had not obtained such special permission to cover the activities on that particular day.

Opposition Leader Premadasa said, “Parliamentarians do enjoy certain privileges, but these Parliamentarians do not have the privilege of confiscating the mobile phones from journalists.

These Parliamentarians could perhaps come forward and say they made a mistake and apologise. But you must not try to justify their actions by bringing up various regulations. You must take steps to safeguard the rights of media personnel and protect media freedom.”

The main Opposition SJB in a recent statement noted that it has unanimously decided at its parliamentary group meeting to extend the party’s full support to every move of the Government that benefits the economic recovery of the country via the parliamentary process, however, without being subjugated to the administration.

The SJB will not submit itself to the auctioning of MPs and will suspend its support should the Government try to attract Party members to Government positions in a deviation from the basic SJB policy, the statement emphasised.

However, SJB Parliamentarians Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara were sworn in as the Minister of Tourism and Lands and Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment on Friday morning.

The main Opposition SJB had previously stated that it would support the Government to overcome the ongoing crisis situation, without accepting Cabinet portfolios.

The SJB had also stressed that it would not be a part of the new Cabinet of Ministers under the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Meanwhile, Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Friday that disciplinary action will be taken against Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara who joined the Government.

Against party decision

Former President and SLFP Chairman Maithripala Sirisena also told Parliament that accepting ministerial portfolios in the incumbent Government is against the decision reached by the party.

SLFP MP Nimal Siripala de Silva was sworn in as the Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation on Friday alongside eight other Parliamentarians including two from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya.

Former President Sirisena said even though the SLFP proposed to form an Interim Government or an All Party Government, the Government which is being formed has none of them and added that it was the same regime which was in power previously.

Nine more Members of Parliament were sworn in as Cabinet Ministers before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday morning.

TNA to extend support

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader R. Sampanthan said as the new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had a good understanding of the problems of the Tamil people in the country it would be easier to work with him in finding solutions to the Tamil people’s problems.

Sampanthan told the media that this does not mean that the TNA will support every initiative taken by the Government. He said that the TNA would extend its full support to the Government in its efforts to ensure the welfare of the people and in resolving the problems of the people.

Sampanthan said that his party in the past has had long discussions with Wickremesinghe about the Tamil people in the North and East and it was evident that he had a good understanding about the issues faced by the Tamil people.

PM makes special statement

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe pledged to build a nation without queues for kerosene, gas, and fuel; a nation free of power outages, a nation with plentiful resources where agriculture can freely flourish; a nation where the future of the youth is secure; a nation where people’s labour need not be wasted in queues and in struggles; a nation where everyone can lead their lives freely with three square meals a day.

Delivering a special statement to the nation on Monday, Premier Wickremesinghe did not hesitate to acknowledge the gravity of the task before him and compared it to the Caucasian Chalk Circle, where Grusha crossed the broken rope bridge carrying a child that was not her own.

He said, “This is an even more difficult undertaking. The precipice is deep and its bottom cannot be seen. The bridge is made of thin glass and there is no handrail. I am wearing shoes with sharp nails that cannot be removed. My task is to safely take the child to the other side. I am accepting this challenge for our nation.”

“Narrow political agendas”

National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath said his party is of the firm stance that it will not support the new Government formed in collaboration with those who were involved in the bond and sugar scams.

He said that this is not a Government formed through the consent of all political parties represented in Parliament at present.

He told the media at the party headquarters in Battaramulla, that some individuals close to the new Government have already launched a mission to obtain the support of MPs who have not expressed their support to the new Government.

He said, “Several MPs are already prepared to accept ministerial portfolios. We will see more MPs working to achieve their narrow political agendas surfacing in the future,” he said.

Parliament canteen

Sri Lankan lawmakers have requested for the members canteen in Parliament to be closed at a time when the entire country is facing a crisis over food. The country has faced an acute shortage of foreign exchange that has led to an increase in prices and a shortage of vehicular fuel, gas, food, and thermal fuel for electricity production.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament on Friday that he received a letter containing 53 signatures of SLPP Parliamentarians stating that they will not consume food from the Parliament canteen.

He said, “Steps will be taken to suspend providing meals from the Parliament canteen to the group of MPs, and the matter will also be discussed at the Party Leaders meeting to determine if the decision should apply to all the MPs.”

SLPP MP Sampath Athokurala said the request was for the Parliament canteen to be closed, and if an MP requires a meal, he or she will be provided with a meal packet at a reasonable cost. However, SJB MP S. M. Marikkar pointed out that even if Parliament sessions are on or not, over 1,000 people are employed in Parliament and they report to work daily. He requested for the Speaker to reveal the actual cost when Parliament sessions are on, and when Parliament sessions are not taking place.

Fed up of politics

Former Finance Minister Ali Sabry, PC said he had not made a single cent by engaging in politics, adding that he is now fed up with politics.

Joining the adjournment debate on the recent incidents that took place in the country, he said that when his home had been attacked, during May 9 unrest, some lawyers in the judicial field had rejoiced.

He questioned how such things could happen in a Buddhist country. He said, “People ask me if I’m scared. Yes, I am scared. I did not come to politics to fight a war. I am scared for my children and my parents. I have not earned a cent by engaging in politics.”

Former Minister Sabry said, “Prior to accepting these ministerial posts, I have paid Rs. 42 million as income tax during the past five years. I have paid every cent. I have not received even 10 percent of my income from politics and its privileges.

I came into politics with the hope of doing something for this country. Is this a country where people rejoice when others’ houses are attacked and burnt down? What is this? When you burn down another’s house does the issue get resolved? I am not afraid for my life, but I am afraid of my children’s future.”

He said it is pointless to protest and build castles in the air. This problem will not be resolved. “As for me, I don’t even want to look towards the Parliament, I am so fed up. We don’t want this. My children or family have never come here to obtain our meals or anything. In fact, my children have not even come to my Ministry.”

Motion defeated

A Motion presented by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran to suspend Standing Orders to debate the Motion titled ‘Express displeasure over the conduct of the President’ was defeated in Parliament on Tuesday. Sixty-eight Members of Parliament voted in favour of the Motion while 119 MPs voted against the motion. It was tabled to take up the Motion presented to express displeasure over the conduct of the President as a matter of urgency.

When Sumanthiran proposed that Standing Orders be suspended to take up the Motion, Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena opposed the suspension of Standing Orders on behalf of the Government.

He suggested that the motion be taken up for debate in line with Standing Orders, five days after including it in the Order Book. Gunawardena said, “The Motion was presented by Sumanthiran and seconded by Chief Opposition Whip MP Lakshman Kiriella. What is the motion? It is to suspend Standing Orders. These are two issues, adding that he had notified the Speaker earlier that the Government faction was not in favour of suspending Standing Orders.”

He said the Motion against the President could be brought, but abiding by the Standing Orders. Gunawardena also said that the Opposition had made a big hue and cry demanding for the resignation of the former Prime Minister and the No Confidence Motion against him was still in the Order Paper and it should be removed from the Order Paper.

Deputy Speaker

SLPP Parliamentarian Ajith Rajapaksa was elected to the office of Deputy Speaker in the House of Parliament on Tuesday which had fallen vacant following the resignation of MP Ranjith Siyambalapitiya. Rajapaksa was elected with 109 votes while his opponent SJB Parliamentarian Rohini Kumari Kaviratne received 78 votes. Twenty-three ballot papers were rejected.

When Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced one should be appointed to the office of the Deputy Speaker following the announcement of the letter by the President accepting Ranjith Siyambalapitiya’s resignation from the office of Deputy Speaker, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa proposed the name of SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne while MP Kiriella seconded it.

However, Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris proposed the name of Ajith Rajapaksa to the vacant office while the proposal was seconded by SLPP MP Shantha Bandara.

Geetha breaks down

SLPP Parliamentarian Geetha Kumarasinghe broke down in tears during the debate on the recent violence in the country on Friday, narrating the ordeal she had to go through when mobs attacked her home. She said that having the opportunity to live comfortably in Switzerland with her daughter, she had opted to live in Sri Lanka alone, serving her beloved people.

She said, “When they were attacking my home, I was trembling in fear and was hiding in a corner of a room. What wrong have I done? I have never hurt anyone. I have sacrificed everything to engage in politics and serve my people.

I slogged and slaved in cinema and won many awards through sheer dedication and hard work. They destroyed all my trophies and awards. Why? Why did these young people do this to me? I can never get my awards and trophies back. You all have mothers, I am also a mother, why did you do this to me?” she said.

She said that the youth who had attacked her home had dashed all her precious trophies on the ground and broken them to pieces. “Why have you destroyed all my precious awards with such malice?”