Opposition on the offensive as Govt. found wanting
It’s not often that the Opposition gains the upper hand in Parliament these days, being both outnumbered and outwitted by ruling party members, more often than not. However, there are exceptions to the rule, as was seen last week in Parliament, when the tables were turned on the government.
Be it the Z-score fiasco, or the raid on the office of an anti-Government website, or the muddling at the Colombo Stock Exchange, the Government was on the back foot trying to defend itself, when these matters were raised by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
When Parliament met on Wednesday, the Opposition Leader questioned the Government on the fallout caused by the Supreme Court ruling with regards to the Z-score calculation, particularly, the effect on those students who will be at a disadvantage, once the Z-scores are recalculated as per Court directive.
“The ruling given by the Supreme Court for rectifying the injustice caused to the children, through separate Z-score counting for the two syllabi should be appreciated. It has opened an opportunity to rectify the injustices caused by the Government, Ministers and others responsible,” he said. However, he expressed concern for students who may have had the adequate marks when the Z-score was first calculated, and may now lose out on the opportunity to gain university admission, on re-calculation.
Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake said in response that the University Grants Commission is working expeditiously to implement the Court’s directive. “I can assure that university admission will begin without delay, once this matter is sorted out,” the Minister said.
The Opposition Leader also raised the investment of EPF and ETF monies in the Colombo Stock Exchange, and once again asked the Government to disclose details of this transaction to the House.
“The Stock Exchange has been asleep like Rip Van Winkle. If you start investigating, it will be like opening a can of worms,” the Opposition Leader said, alleging many illegal transactions were taking place there.
Senior Minister of International Monetary Cooperation, Dr Sarath Amunugama said that the EPF and ETF monies invested in the Stock Exchange is less than 5% of the funds, while the rest are in government securities. “We have always been friends of the working class, while the UNP has always been enemies of the working class. We will not invest people’s money in a non-profitable manner,” he said.
He accused the Opposition of scandal mongering, but did not come out with convincing details of how the monies have been invested in the Stock Exchange, or tell the House what action the Government has taken on allegations of insider trading within the Stock Exchange.
The raid on the offices of the Sri Lanka Mirror and Sri Lanka X News in Kotte, was also raised in Parliament on Friday by the Opposition Leader, in which he accused the Government of passively watching while the Police was violating the law.
He said that the Police had stated these people were taken into custody under Section 118 of the Penal Code, but this Section on the Law of Criminal Defamation has been repealed under Act No. 12 of 2002.
“There is no legal basis whatsoever for the Police to take persons into custody under a law which is not in force. That amounts to a violation of, not only the law of the country, but also the Police Code of Discipline. Equally, it is an infringement of the right of expression established under Section 14 (1) B of the Constitution,” he said.
Leader of the House, Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva defended the raid on the website office, saying that the people concerned had abused media traditions and values, as means to achieve immoral goals, and the raids were carried with a search warrant issued by a court of law.
He said the premises were being used for anti-State activities, instigating people against the State, and hence, this action was justified.