President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) returned to Sri Lanka on Tuesday morning. He went to Parliament that afternoon as Cabinet meetings are held in the Parliament complex during the Budget debate. The President’s Parliamentary Affairs Adviser Prof. Ashu Marasinghe had brought a cake to Parliament. It was to celebrate the birthday of SLPP Parliamentarian Johnston Fernando.
At that time, Prof. Marasinghe came to know that Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was also ready to cut a cake for Johnston Fernando’s birthday. He quickly went to the Prime Minister’s office and proposed to cut both cakes at the same place. After Premier Gunawardena also agreed, a group of MPs brought Johnston Fernando to the President’s Office in Parliament. Johnston Fernando who cut both cakes brought by the Prime Minister and the President and attempted to feed it to his fellow MPs, the Prime Minister first fed a piece of cake to Johnston Fernando. MP Fernando, who was happy with the cake cutting, said that it was a pleasure to cut the cake with his old Leader. He said that he always respected him.
“The President went to the COP 28 conference and came to Parliament with many victories for the country,” everyone looked at MP Madhura Withanage when he said that.
“We felt very proud when the French President held his hand and said that he supported President Wickremesinghe’s proposal,” MP Premanath Dolawatta said.
“The fact that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi even posted the meeting with our President on his Twitter account shows the international support President Wickremesinghe has. When we see the Heads of the State moving with the President and talking, we feel quite proud,” MP Madhura Withanage said again looking at the MPs.
“The President took the name of Sri Lanka to the world through the COP 28 Conference. Without talking about Sri Lanka, he also presented solutions related to the common problems of countries in the tropical region and it was accepted by the whole world,” MP Wajira Abeywardene said.
“Sir, give women a chance to go abroad and see how you deal with foreign leaders.” When MP Rajika Wickramasinghe said that, everyone laughed.
When Prof. Ashu Marasinghe said, “Because the President gives equal status to women, he will also give opportunities to women MPs,” the President smiled.
“The President is no longer the Leader of a single party. When he goes abroad, he usually takes the members of the Government and the Opposition parties. This time it became clear that he is everyone’s President,” Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said.
“Even when going to the Non-Aligned Nations Conference, I hope to take MPs without Government and Opposition divisions,” the President said looking at the Opposition MPs who were there at that time.
These days, the young Members of Parliament are working to start a program to provide relief to the people called ‘Happy Family’. Those MPs had also arrived at the Presidential Secretariat at that time and Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga started teasing them.
“Sir, they are collecting proposals to make happy families countrywide,” Ranatunga said looking at the President. “It doesn’t matter if there is any suggestion or discussion. But it’s better if those discussions are done in moderation,” the Prime Minister said.
Officials of the State Revenue Collection Division of the President’s Office are continuing to implement the MP awareness program. The MPs are also eager to open income tax files and develop knowledge by discussing with these officials about tax revenue.
Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, the coordinator of the MPs and income tax officials, said in front of the MPs that 27 companies that do accounting work in large-scale companies in Sri Lanka are disrupting the transfer of income to the Treasury.
President Wickremesinghe left Parliament that day and went directly to Solis Hotel, Pitakotte to participate in the centenary celebrations of the Government Valuation Department.
The Youth Manifesto submitted for the COP 28 was presented to the President on Wednesday morning.
TNA MP complains
When TNA MP Charles Nirmalanathan came to the President’s office in Parliament, the President was not there. He came to make a complaint to the President. It is about limiting the time given to them by the Opposition and not giving them their rightful place in the list of speakers.
MP Nirmalanathan went to Prof. Ashu Marasinghe and narrated the incident that occurred in the Parliament Chamber. The Opposition Leader’s office had named Charles Nirmalanathan as the second speaker in the list of Opposition speakers. But Nirmalanathan was angry because MP S.M. Marikkar was allowed to speak and he was not given an opportunity and delayed his speech, went to the Opposition Leader’s seat and berated him. The parliamentary staff came towards them thinking that he was about to attack Premadasa. But the staff dispersed as the MP left after scolding.
MP Nirmalanathan who had berated the Opposition Leader, left the Chamber in an aggressive manner. Later, even in his speech, he accused the Opposition Leader for the injustice caused to him. This incident came to the attention of President Wickremesinghe who came to Parliament in the afternoon.
In the midst of all this, the President went to the Parliament Committee room to address the first meeting of the “Parliamentary Forum for World Peace”. The former Minister of Labour of Malaysia and representatives of several countries including Nepal and Japan were present. In his speech, the President outlined the good governance process and the setting up of a Budget Office in Parliament. Former President Maithripala Sirisena had organised this event.
At the President’s Office in the Parliamentary complex, MP Wajira Abeywardena praised Minister Manusha Nanayakkara for giving funds of the Foreign Employment Bureau to the Treasury.
Misuse of CCF funds
It was MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage who presented the audit report to Parliament about the misuse of the money of the Central Cultural Fund (CCF) and the employees of the ministry during the debate on the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. This issue was also raised by MPs when the President was in the Chamber.
“The Opposition Leader spoke about the audit report of the Sri Lanka Cricket as a true report. If it is a true report, then the audit report about what the Opposition Leader did when he was the Cultural Affairs Minister must also be true. Cricket is true, this is a false theory that the Opposition Leader is playing now,” MP Thenuka Vidanagamage said.
“Will the second tranche of the IMF be received this week?” was the question from MP Manjula Dissanayake. The President said that the Executive Board of the IMF will meet on December 12 and there will be a good message. The President also outlined the financial provisions provided by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to Sri Lanka.
Senior Presidential advisor
The MPs also questioned the increase in VAT and the President said that the VAT in India was 18 percent. He said that the economy will grow gradually and until then everyone will have to make some sacrifices. He also recalled that his primary objective is to save the country from bankruptcy.
That evening, the President appointed MP Vadivel Suresh as a Senior Presidential Advisor to fulfill tasks on behalf of the plantation community.
On Thursday morning, the President was the witness at the marriage of UNP General Secretary Range Bandara’s son. In the evening, the President met a Chinese Buddhist delegation and spoke about the 150th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Law College. The President had also taken steps to donate land to the Law College.
Trade unions affiliated to the SJB, representatives of civil organisations working outside the party and the alliance of young professionals of the SJB met at the Opposition Leader’s office on Tuesday under the patronage of SJB National Organiser MP Tissa Attanayake to discuss the implementation of a program to build public opinion about the judgment given by the Supreme Court on the bankruptcy of the country.
President of the Young Professionals’ Organisation MP Harshana Rajakaruna said that a seminar will be held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute on December 12 to educate the people about the Supreme Court judgment.
President’s Counsel Upul Jayasuriya said that 22 million Sri Lankan people who were the aggrieved party can file a lawsuit against the respondents. He also said that the legal team of Samagi Jana Balawegaya was ready to provide legal support.
Dr. Mahin Mendis, who filed the case in the Supreme Court, said that seminars and a program to mobilise the people should be implemented. MP Tissa Attanayake said that this judgment is a special victory for the people of the country adding that it is useless to chant slogans such as ‘curse of 75 years’ saying that unuth ekai, munuth ekai (both are same). He said that it is important to reveal to the country about the politicians who protect them without talking about the real respondents.
Last week, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa joined an important occasion at the Bishops’ Conference Centre at Cotta Road, Colombo. All the Bishops of Sri Lanka gathered at the centre on December 6 at 4.30 pm. Sajith Premadasa, a special invitee, received a warm welcome at the Bishops’ summit. There was a long exchange of views between the Archbishop and the Opposition Leader on the economic and political situation in the country.
Expressing their concern about the way the rulers are acting about the Easter Sunday attacks, the Bishops asked the Opposition Leader to take fair action. The Bishops also expressed their appreciation for the actions and comments by the Opposition Leader in and outside Parliament. During the discussion which lasted for two and a half hours, the Opposition Leader said that he is committed to a process that will do justice to all in the multi-racial social structure of Sri Lanka.
On Thursday morning, the Professionals’ Trade Union Collective (PTUC) met the Opposition Leader in Parliament. The PTUC met the Opposition Leader for a discussion about the people affected by the Government’s tax policy. The Convenor of the PTUC, Dr. Kasun Gamage said that the tax policy in force in the country has been distorted by amending the Inland Revenue Act. Dr. Gamage said that the people including professionals are under serious pressure of injustice due to the personal income tax system.
Spokesperson of the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) Charudatta Illangasinghe said that the Government’s tax policy has become the beginning of a journey that will restart severe economic, social and political crises in the country.
He said that the Government has failed to ensure economic and political stability in Sri Lanka and also ensure the protection of professionals and that all the negotiations with the Government to establish a fair and clean tax policy have not been fulfilled. The members of the PTUC said that only the Samagi Jana Balawegaya and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa are giving them the opportunity to talk about this.
The Opposition Leader said that the SJB will continue to raise its voice for this as the Samagi Jana Sandhanaya in and outside Parliament.
On Thursday afternoon, the Anti-corruption Force of the SJB met under the patronage of its Chairman Mujibur Rahuman at the Opposition Leader’s Office to discuss the upcoming seminars organised by the Anti-corruption Force and the action taken. Mujibur Rahuman said that he hopes to take legal action regarding the financial loss incurred during the import of organic fertiliser.
The Convener of the Anti-corruption Force, former Provincial Council member Niroshan Padukka said that there is a plan to commit passport fraud in the next 10 years. He said that one of the parties involved is the private organisation that maintained the data system of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority. The Anti-corruption Force decided to look into the matter and take further steps. The fight against corruption is extremely difficult. Dr. Rumi, a member of that force, said that the guidance given by the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa is effective and powerful.
“The Presidential Election is coming. The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) knows it, but they are afraid of it. If there is a parliamentary election, many people in the SJB will join the UNP to support the President,” MP Nimal Lanza said with a smile. MP Duminda Dissanayake said, “Like Lanza said, there are already a lot of SJB MPs either in the Presidential Secretariat or in the President’s office in Parliament.” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said,”Yes, we see them when we go there. They meet the President secretly and come out and criticise the Government.”
“Yes, how can those people who did not criticise the Government escape from the Opposition Leader,” Lanza said.
“Many people are not on good terms with Sajith Premadasa,” MP Channa Jayasumana who joined the conversation said.
“Before becoming President, Sajith should know how to treat the MPs around him, how can he be President if he doesn’t know that,” Minister Nalin Fernando said.
“The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Convention is to be held this week and they are trying their best to fill the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium,” MP Piyankara Jayaratne said.
“Several people in Hambantota spoke to me and some of the organisers directly said that they will not bring their people,” Minister Amaraweera said.
“The group is trying to see if they can persuade the people by saying something on December 15,” Minister Nalin Fernando said.
The Puttalam district promotion activities of the new political alliance will be carried out throughout December in all its five constituencies. The activities are being carried out under the supervision of MPs Nimal Lanza and Piyankara Jayaratne. The appointment of electoral representatives, setting up of affiliated organisations, Bhikkhu organisations and women’s organisations will take place throughout the month and Siripala Amarasinghe and Sugishwara Bandara have already gone to lead the program.
A mobile service of the Provincial Council was held at the Karukkuwa Sugathananda Maha Vidyalaya, Madampe yesterday targeting the Chilaw electorate. It was organised following a request by MP Nimal Lanza from the North Western Province Governor Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena. A group of Ministers and Parliamentarians supporting the new alliance such as Nalin Fernando, Mahinda Amaraweera, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Nimal Lanza, Piyankara Jayaratne, Channa Jayasumana, Duminda Dissanayake and others were talking about current political issues in the Parliament lobby.
“Now everyone in the SJB is afraid that the President will dissolve Parliament,” said State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna.