troubled over consultative committees
By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent
With the votes on the three
ministries taken over by President Chandrika Kumaratunga due to
come up for discussion on Wednesday, a fallout from the President's
actions was once again the subject of much debate in Parliament.
This time round
the controversy was triggered by senior People's Alliance parliamentarian
representing the Gampaha District Jeyaraj Fernandopulle mentioning
the problems that could arise out of the appointment of parliamentary
consultative committees. This came after the Leader of the House
W.J.M. Lokubandara under the Standing Orders moved the motion for
the appointment of 42 such committees in Parliament on Thursday.
of consultative committees correspond to the number of Ministries
that comprise the Cabinet. Mr. Fernandopulle informed Speaker Joseph
Michael Perera on Friday that at present there was no provision
for the consultative committees on the subjects of defence, Interior
and mass media taken over by the President to function as Standing
Orders of Parliament specifically states that the Chairman of such
committees shall be the minister-in-charge of the subject and in
a situation where the President is in charge of certain subjects,
the Deputy Ministers of the concerned ministries could function
that the only way these committees could function was by amending
the Standing Orders to enable the members of the consultative committees
to select a person from among them as chairman. At that point the
Speaker intervened to say that appointing deputy ministers was a
matter for the President and there was nothing he could do about
There was much
support for Mr. Fernandopulle's speech from government benches,
with the Leader of the House saying that there was likely to be
more confusion in the coming days with the votes of the three ministries
scheduled for the 17th of this month.
Even though Mr. Lokubandara hinted that the government was unlikely
to defeat the votes of these ministries, still it was not clear
who would answer the queries raised about their functions.
Whip Mahinda Samarasinghe pointed out that several other Parliamentary
functions too had come to a standstill after the President's takeover
with all party leaders in Parliament having agreed to avoid raising
oral questions or adjournment questions directed at the three ministries
of defence, interior and mass media as there was nobody in the House
to answer the questions.
debates prior to the take over of the ministries the largest number
of oral questions was directed at the Interior Minister and most
of them were by Colombo district PA parliamentarian Nimal Siripala
De Silva. Last week several ministers had a difficult job fending
off the allegations of corruption levelled at them by the opposition.
Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake had the unenviable task
of countering the barrage of serious charges of corruption and waste,
made by several opposition legislators, against the various institutions
coming under Mr. Karunanayake's Ministry.
Wholesale Establishment (CWE) was the main target of the attack
when several opposition members including Colombo district JVP parliamentarian
Sunil Handunneti quoting from the Auditor General's report for this
year highlighted several discrepancies in the accounting of CWE
funds. Mr. Handunetti cited the case where the CWE allegedly paid
out from its funds US $ 200,000 to a British rock band 'UB 40' for
a concert in Colombo last year.
'UB 40' helped this country's economy? Today the CWE has been sold
and we have lost an establishment that was near and dear to the
common man", he said.
Mr. Karunanayake dismissed most of the opposition allegations as
baseless and said his ministry was working to give a better deal
to consumers in the country. He also challenged them to make these
charges against him outside the cover of parliamentary privilege
so that he could take appropriate action to defend himself.
During the week's many debates it was corruption charges that took
centre stage with several People's Alliance Parliamentarians disclosing
alleged misdeeds by government ministers. Kandy district PA Parliamentarian
Mahindananda Aluthgamage who was in the forefront of the attacks
said that the opposition has complied a dossier on 24 ministers
which they would be handing over to the Commission Investigating
Allegations of Bribery and Corruption.
parliamentarian Arjuna Ranatunga highlighted allegations of abuses
taking place in the sports sector during the votes on the Ministry
of Youth Affairs and Sports. "The image that the country built
up in the arena of world cricket has been ruined by the corruption
of the administrators in the Cricket Board. Today it has become
a company and is run by a group of people who are only interested
in making money", Mr. Ranataunga alleged.
He also said
that Sports Minister Johnston Fernando had gone on record as saying
that he would support Thilanga Sumathipala to become the Chairman
of the ICC.
"They must remember that ICC stands for the International Cricket
Council and not International Criminal's Council", he said.
The Sports Minister however saw the allegations levelled against
the Cricket Board administrators by Mr. Ranatunga as something personal.
defeated in the cricket board elections that is why you are saying
all this. I will support any Sri Lankan, whether he is Mr. Sumathipala
or anyone else if he can win a place in an international sports
body", Mr. Fernando said. There were also a few refreshing
contributions to the otherwise dull and repetitive set of speeches
that had been heard ad nauseam on the floor of the House especially
during the long drawn out committee stage of the Budget debate.
One among them
was PA Anuradhapura district MP Duminda Dissanayake who spoke on
the subject of Sports and Youth Affairs highlighting the many problems
faced by the youth in the outstations. He said there was growing
frustration among the youth because of the government's failure
to keep its many promises made to this crucial segment of the population
during election time.
legislator from the same district Tissa Karalliyadde speaking on
the votes of the Ministry of Agriculture said that successive governments
had done little more than pay lip service to maximize the potential
of the agricultural sector in the country and suggested several
ways in which this pathetic situation faced by the country's farmers
could be remedied.
the Speaker announced the appointment of Neil Parakrama Iddawela
as the Assistant Secretary General of Parliament with effect from