No case to prove
Kirinde, Our Lobby
While the government managed to easily defeat a vote of
No-confidence brought against Defence Minister Tilak Marapana in
Parliament on Tuesday and also push through two important bills,
JVP legislators managed to get the sittings of the House suspended
after staging a noisy protest inside the Chambers on Friday.
was defeated by a majority of 42 votes with 84 members voting for
it and 126 against the motion. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA)
supported the government.
also pushed through the Employees Provident Fund (Amendment) Bill
under which all new entrants to the public service from January
1, this year would be subject to a contributory pension scheme for
which they would have to contribute eight per cent of their salaries
while the government would contribute 12 per cent.
Revenue (Special Provisions) Bill which will grant a tax amnesty
to those who have not furnished a return of income and assets prior
to March 31, 2002 was also passed in the House amidst much opposition
from JVP and PA members.
The JVP that
called a press conference at the parliamentary complex on Wednesday
while the Bills were being debated said the tax amnesty would only
benefit the rich friends of the UNF government. The party's Sunil
Handunetti moved four amendments to the Bill but they were all rejected
by the government.
JVP legislators brought sittings to a stop for over 20 minutes after
Wimal Weerawansa attempted to make a statement condemning the tear
gas attack on the demonstration staged by them near the Prime Minister's
official residence on Thursday evening.
When the Deputy
Chairman of Committees Siri Andrahennady ruled that the statement
could not be allowed, the JVP legislators lead by Mr.Weerawansa
unfurled several posters with slogans condemning the government
and walked to the well of the House and sat down in protest.
legislators who were irked by this were seen rushing towards the
JVP members and had to be restrained by some of the more senior
colleagues. A large number of schoolchildren who were in the gallery
were also rushed out as the events unfolded and soon sittings were
There was no
such open display of displeasure by the Opposition when the long
over-due Vote of No-confidence on Defence Minister Tilak Marapana
was taken up for debate on Tuesday. The government's ploy of delaying
setting a date for it seems to have paid off as the opposition was
left to debate a motion whose contents had by now become almost
a forgotten subject.
gave notice of the motion nearly five and a half months ago in the
wake of the outbreak of Tamil-Muslim clashes in Valachchenai and
Muttur. At the on-set of the debate, Speaker Joseph Michael Perera
ruled that speakers must stick to issues relevant to the motion
and refrain from mentioning the actions of the Prime Minister or
any other ministers during the course of their speeches.
restrict your comments to the Defence Minister as this motion is
against him. If you want to speak on others, you have to bring separate
motions or a no-confidence vote against the government," he
too seems to have dampened the enthusiasm of the opposition speakers
because for many Mr. Marapana was not the wrong doer but he was
a lame duck. The Minister was only following orders from those above
him. As it was obvious that Mr. Marapana was not the opposition's
main target, many failed to make a case for why he should be removed
from the post.
parliamentarian Nimal Siripala De Silva started off the debate stating
that the opposition had nothing personal against the Minister but
was acting to safeguard the rights of the people. He went onto detail
the many instances of negligence by the Defence authorities that
had lead to the decline in the morale of the armed forces. He cited
the police raid on an alleged army safe house in Aturugiriya stating
that such incidents while damaging the morale of the government
troops was helping boost the confidence of the LTTE.
The JVP's Wimal
Weerawansa who seconded the motion said the LTTE was gradually getting
to their goal of setting up a separate state in the north and east
- with the government being willing partners in this great betrayal.
the Minister speaking out about the atrocities committed by the
LTTE? When the LTTE's Karuna was referred to as the military commander
of eastern Sri Lanka in Switzerland, did the minister write to the
Swiss authorities correcting this? You don't have the guts to speak
up against the LTTE," he said.
Power and Energy
Minister Karu Jayasuriya who opened the debate on behalf of the
government had little to say on the no-confidence motion itself
but went onto praise Mr.Marapana for the transparency he has brought
to awarding of tenders for military procurement and the non political
manner in which he is dealing with the military but clearly avoided
any reference to the MoU and it's violations.
Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said there was global opposition to war today.
"In today's world, there are many civilised ways to resolve
conflicts. Today the entire world is behind the government of Ranil
Wickremesinghe. The LTTE cannot fool the international community,"
He said the
Defence Minister had done a commendable job in his capacity as the
defence Minister and asked him not to be disheartened by such opposition
the TNA Jaffna district MP opposing the no-confidence vote said
they had reservations about the conduct of the government especially
in view of the recent incidents in Manipay where several LTTE female
cadres were allegedly manhandled by the army but said they would
oppose any move to remove the Minister as it could scuttle the peace
Ports and Shipping
Minister Rauff Hakeem, too didn't want to rock the boat although
he admitted that steps needed to be taken to relieve the problems
of the Muslims in the east.
the Minister we cannot say the security of Muslims would be guaranteed.
That is like changing the pillow for a headache," he said.
One of Mr.Hakeem's political rivals NUA's M.L.A.M. Hisbullah who
spoke after Mr. Hakeem said the Minister was talking about a headache
but he was not giving any medicine for it. "I think we now
have to change the head to get rid of the headache," he said.
It was PA Kurunegala
district MP Anura Priyadharshana Yapa who succeeded in some measure
to explain why a no-confidence vote on the Minister was necessary.
Mr.Yapa explained in detail several instances where the LTTE had
blatantly violated the ceasefire agreements and was continuing to
build up its military strength while the government and the Minister
were not taking any counter measures.
PA MP Dinesh Gunawardene too came down hard on the Defence Minister
saying his conduct had compromised the security of the entire country.
Mr.Gunawardena also referred to the front page news report in The
Sunday Times of February 16, on the large amount of parcels that
the LTTE delegates to the peace talks had brought into the country
and how they were sent to the north without any checks.
"The government must hold a public inquiry into this,"
on his part said the motion was both untimely and unfounded. Referring
to the Valachchenai incident, he said prompt action had been taken
after its eruption to prevent its spread and law and order restored
within a reasonable time. " There are minor incidents which
occur from time to time but these are sorted out satisfactorily.
There is no reason for anyone living in either the north or the
east to feel insecure, nor has national security been placed at
risk," he said. An adjournment debate on a possible war against
Iraq and its repercussions on Sri Lanka also took place on Thursday.
Anura Bandaranaike in a lengthy speech said there was no justification
for a war against Iraq as UN weapons inspectors had not got enough
time to do their job and it was difficult to take the bona fides
of the USA seriously as they had started amassing troops along the
Iraqi border before the inspectors could finish their work.
said some government ministers too were pro-American and had resorted
to a level that compromises the country's foreign policy. He made
specific mention of the recent Sunday Times article, which quotes
Economic Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda as saying that when the
US Ambassador asks him to do things, he does not reason why, he
had many kind words for The Sunday Times. He described it as the
only newspaper that publishes the truth, though Defence Minister
Tilak Marapana had on the previous day in Parliament said one Sunday
newspaper was publishing falsehoods without naming the newspaper.
referring to The Sunday Times. Who owns The Sunday Times? The Prime
Minister's uncle, the Prime Minister's mother's brother. He allows
the journalists to write the truth," Mr. Bandaranaike said.