fight, only talk as sessions survive four days
By Santhush Fernando
The thirteenth Parliament met for the fifth time
in three months this week. An unusual calm prevailed against the
backdrop of violent scenes that marred the last sittings on June
sessions began with six new MPs taking their oaths before Speaker
W. J. M. Lokubandara. Mohomed Muzammil, Nirmala Kothalawala, H.R.
Mithrapala from UPFA and Mohideen Musthapha, Basheer Segu Dawood
and Siyabdeen Najimudeen from the UNF were sworn in to fill the
vacancies created by the resignation of UPFA MPs Phillip Kumarasinghe,
Maheepala Herath and Reginald Cooray and UNF MPs Ali Zaheer Moulana,
Ismail Kuddoos and W.P.S. Pushpa Kumara.
highlights of this weeks' sessions were the debates on the control
of state media and the UPFA's economic policy framework. UNF MP
Lakshman Seneviratne moving the debate slammed the UPFA for going
back on its election manifesto promise that it would de-politicise
the state media. Instead, a media mafia was running state media
institutions, causing a 70 percent fall in the circulation, he said.
Badulla District Parliamentarian said that although the SLFP had
agreed to a JVP proposal not to appoint any defeated candidates,
almost all top posts in the state media institutions were filled
by them, sidelining professional journalists.
and SLFP stalwart Anura Bandaranaike, who once had a stake at a
now-defunct newspaper group, told that the UNF had no right to ask
the Government to liberate the media, as its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
made no effort to free it during his tenure as prime minister.
linked the origins of the plague that was gripping the state media
to the late President J. R. Jayewardene - whom he referred to as
'father of all troubles' - while making no mention about the 1970-77
period during which one newspaper group was nationalized and another
sealed. Mr. Bandaranaike in a defiant rhetoric said the UPFA would
continue to use the state media to strengthen the government, which
is still unable to muster enough support in the legislature to cross
or reach the 113 mark.
the globetrotting tourism minister, who is now in China, mustered
enough courage to send a message to Speaker Lokubandara that his
days as Speaker were limited. "We can and will appoint a Speaker
who is capable in working with us," he said.
the debate to a different aspect, journalist-turned-TNA Parliamentarian
S. Jeyanandamoorthi accused the Sinhala media of operating in a
racist and fanatical manner to disrupt the peace process. "The
Sinhala media called me a Tiger when I covered the opening of LTTE
courts for The Sunday Times," the angry Batticaloa District
response, Deputy Media Minister Cegu Issadeen gave the hackneyed
reply that the state media had a traditional role to play in countering
anti-government propaganda in the private media. Though an unusual
calm prevailed the debate was not without the usual uproar.
the serenity of the House, angry and agitated JHU parliamentarians
joined Government MPs in denouncing a comment made by Batticaloa
District TNA MP K. Gajendran. The comment, which many saw as unwarranted
and inflammatory, was later expunged from the Hansard.
leader Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera warned that if the TNA made
one more such comment, the JHU would cross the divide and join the
Wednesday, Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama presented the Freedom
Alliance Government's economic policy framework. Named "Creating
our future: Building our Nation", Minister Amunugama said that
unlike the economic programme of the UNF, the UPFA policy framework
was pro-growth and pro-poor.
N. Choksy, author of the UNF's pro-market budgets which did not
convince the rural masses and contributed to the defeat of the UNF
at the last general election, denounced the UPFA document as "a
mass of words that contained no concrete proposal".
out at the government's so-called "mixed economic policy"
as straight-jammed economy that no country in the world followed,
Mr. Choksy claimed there was a yawning gap between the income and
expenditure of the Government while no budgetary provision had been
made to implement the policy framework, which, he predicted, was
bound to collapse.
minister D. E. W. Gunasekera told Mr. Choksy that the UPFA would
introduce its patriotic, radical and left policies in the November
budget. Reminding the government that socialism was more a rhetoric
than reality, Puttalam district UNF MP Gamini Jayawickrama Perera
said the Government was leading the country into a more capitalist
framework than the UNF.
state media to economic policy, the House on Thursday turned its
attention on dengue which, according to statistics provided by the
UNF's doctor-turned-politician, Jayalath Jayawardena, had claimed
60 lives and afflicted nearly 10,000 people.
Jayawardena moving an adjournment motion charged that the Government
had not taken any substantial steps to counter the dengue outbreak
and called on the state to treat it as a national emergency, even
at "this late stage".
warned that if the government failed to take action, the opposition
was prepared to undertake this task with the help of the masses.
Endorsing Dr. Jayawardena's view, JHU's Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera
said that unless Parliament put in to action what it debated, it
would soon become a talking shop as China's Chairman Mao Zedong
the Ven. Thera saw a bigger danger to the country than dengue in
what he referred to as "the disease of unethical conversions."
Also talking with tongue-in-cheek or metaphorically was UNF National
List MP Abdul Bais when he said the Government too was suffering
from dengue. "The PA had been afflicted with dengue after the
JVP joined it and is now trying to cure it by injections from the
CWC and the SLMC."
JVP MP retorted: "Your leader too has been afflicted with dengue."
The House was adjourned until August 3 after some lively debate
on national issues were conducted sans any fight - though government
benches were occupied by only about 20 MPs most of the time. If
the opposition MPs who were present had walked out, the House would
have had no quorum.