plight: TNA satyagraha makes no impact on parliament
Sharp exchanges at last week’s
parliament sessions, about alleged political links to
a recently raided house of ill fame and other arguments
between the major political parties dampened the effect
of the “satyagraha” staged by the TNA parliamentarians
to draw attention to the plight of Tamil civilians in
Tamil MPs sat on the red carpeted
floor of the Well of the House in front of the Speaker’s
Chair for hours on three successive days during parliament
sittings. But the MPs on both sides of the House continued
with their business as usual with the government not
bothering to come up with any kind of response to TNA
Jaffna district MP Mavai Senathirajah who demanded that
the government lift the economic embargo on the north
and the A 9 road be opened to facilitate the provision
of relief to the people in Jaffna.
|TNA Jaffna district MP Mavai Senathirajah
The demands seemed to fall on deaf
ears with only SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem making any reference
to the concerns raised by Mr. Senathirajah.
Mr. Hakeem said the government was
sending the wrong signals by not listening to the views
expressed by the democratically elected representatives
of the Tamil people. The ‘satyagraha’ continued
from Wednesday to Friday with no government assurances
coming their way, this was despite President Mahinda
Rajapaksa himself visiting the parliament complex on
Thursday mainly to check on the attendance of UPFA MPs
in parliament. He left after spending some time on his
regular public relations exercise by chatting to MPs
including those of the Opposition at the parliament
Plenty of noise was generated in the
House by the UNP MP from the Ratnapura District, Mahinda
Ratnatilleke, who could not resist bringing up the issue
of parliamentary privilege regarding a newspaper item
which reported a raid on a brothel in Battaramulla which
was allegedly run by a political party leader’s
sister. He was of the view that by referring to ‘a
leader of a political party’, the newspaper had
done injustice to the leaders of all political parties
including his own party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
What followed was a heated exchange
of words which broke out between Mr. Ratnatilleke and
JVP parliamentary leader Wimal Weerawansa. Speaker W.J.M.
Lokubandara who shared the views held by Mr. Ratnatilleke
said the media needed to be more specific when referring
to party leaders so as to avoid casting aspersions on
other leaders. But not all the exchanges between the
UNP and speaker were that affable. The House had to
be suspended for nearly 40 minutes on Wednesday because
the UNP said the Speaker had failed to follow the day’s
agenda as set out in the order book.
The election of the Deputy Chairman
of Committees had been scheduled as the number one item
for the day but the Speaker bypassed it to take up the
next item in the agenda. This prompted the UNP Kandy
district MP Lakshman Kiriella to raise objections and
ask why the election was not being held that day.
The Speaker responded by saying that
JVP MP Piyasiri Wijenaike, the MP who is presently holding
the post was yet to hand over his resignation letter
to the President. Mr. Wijenaike said he had gone to
the President’s House but was unable to meet the
President and hence could not hand over the letter.
Mr. Wijenaike was appointed to the
post as a stop-gap measure some three weeks ago, until
such time his party colleague Ramalingam Chandrasekhar
returned to the country from a trip abroad.
The Speaker’s explanation was
not good enough for the UNP with Mr. Kiriella insisting
that as far as the he was aware the letter was handed
over and as such the Speaker must hold the election
UNP MPs even produced a copy of what
they claimed was Mr. Wijenaike’s resignation letter.
With several heated arguments taking place between government
and opposition benches the Speaker was left with no
alternative but to suspend sittings. A settlement was
reached at the party leaders’ meeting that followed.
The Speaker admitted that he had made
a mistake by not announcing to the House that the election
had to be postponed in view of the delay in handing
over the resignation letter and said in future, the
President’s Office would be asked to notify the
Speaker’s office as soon as such a letter was
received so as to prevent any such confusion.
The TNA MPs continued to sit patiently
through all this drama but it was a welcome change from
the usual noisy protests the Tamils MPs had staging
in the recent past. But with the indifferent attitude
of the government towards their passive resistance,
the TNA might soon revert back to its usual method of
protesting. The Tamil MPs might feel that only violent
and vociferous protests would bring any worthwhile response
from this government.