Roars and thunder produce more heat than light
By Santhush Fernando
"I will obstruct the proceedings of the House if I am not given a fair chance," an infuriated TNA Parliamentarian K. Shivajilingam roared as he charged towards the Speaker's dais in what was regarded as the climax of the week's proceedings.

The Jaffna District MP was reacting to Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike's tirade against him over a July 22 speech he made, alleging that the SLFP stalwart had accompanied the LTTE renegade leader Karuna to Singapore.

After Mr. Bandaranaike finished his speech, the TNA MP sought leave to reply but his request was turned down by the Speaker who pointed out that since Mr. Bandaranaike's speech was a private-member's address, it was not open for debate.

Angered by the response, Mr. Shivajilingam took to the Well of the House and charged towards the Speaker, threatening to disrupt proceedings if he was not allowed to respond. As tension built up, UPFA member Mervyn Silva entered the fray, setting the stage for a June 8 type of pandemonium in which two JHU monk MPs were injured.

However, Mr. Silva was calmed down by Indigenous Medicine Minister Tissa Karralliyedda. But several other MPs, both from the Government and the Opposition, were seen in the Well area - not to aggravate the situation, but to bring the situation under control. But it was Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara's adjournment order that finally brought the chaotic situation to an end.

Once sittings resumed, a subdued and calm Mr. Shivajilingam apologized for his behaviour. Unmoved, Minister Bandaranaike, himself a former Speaker, called for the expulsion of the MP, claiming that Mr. Shivajilingam's behaviour not only violated Standing Orders but also placed his 'life in danger' and made him an LTTE target. Mr. Bandaranaike accused Mr. Shivajilingam of going off topic, when the Jaffna district MP made the allegation regarding Bandaranaike-Karuna link during a debate on dengue.

Mr. Bandaranaike then turned his guns on UNP Parliamentarian John Amaratunga, responding to a speech made by the UNP MP on July 23 in parliament. Slamming Mr. Amaratunga's speech as despicable, irresponsible and a distortion of the facts, Mr. Bandaranaike denied that he slandered former Presidents J.R Jayewardene, R. Premadasa or the Wijewardene family.

The truth was, Mr. Bandaranaike said he was fond of the Wijewardene family with whom he had had longstanding friendship. But he was quick to point out that it did not mean he would not attack the private media. "They attack me, and I attack them here," Mr. Bandaranaike said.

The House also dealt with the ongoing controversy over police promotions and the role of the so-called independent National Police Commission. With both the Government and the Opposition blaming the other for the crisis and chaos, utter confusion reigned.

Against this backdrop, what UNP's Gampaha district MP Edward Gunasekara said made some sense. All 225 members should equally share the blame, he said.

The debate was significant because it was the first such motion to be moved by the Government. Doing the honours for the government in moving the motion was JVP group leader Wimal Weerawansa. Accusing the NPC of being biased towards the UNP, he called for a select committee to probe the promotions made by the commission and the commission itself. Opposition members were soon on their feet.

They said the Police Department, the IGP, the Interior Minister and even the President should take the blame. Firing a salvo at former Interior Minister John Amaratunga who was in charge of police during the UNF regime, Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle said the police force was once derided as "john Polisiya" and the commission as "john polis comisama".

Mr. Amaratunga who accused the UPFA government of precipitating the crisis, asked whether the government believed the NPC should be scrapped. Yes, said UPFA's Sripathi Sooriyarachchi, apparently overlooking the fact that the commission was set up largely to keep politics out of police and salvage the force and make it formidable and effective.

Finding fault with the previous regime is a general trait inherent in Sri Lankan politicians. Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Chandrasena Wijesinghe was no exception when he on Wednesday charged that former Fisheries Minister Mahinda Wijesekara had not returned Government property.

T. Maheswaran was quick to defend his colleague by saying that if so, the JVP too should be penalized for causing damage to public property during its two insurrections.

A week dominated by debates which produced more heat than light also saw the people's representatives tackling or talking about the power crisis. JHU MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera said no government had any clear policy for power and energy.

Labour Minister Athauda Seneviratne said certain decisions could not be implemented with general consensus and required tough measures such as the use of force. He was apparently referring to opposition to certain power projects from civil society groups. Deputy Power Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage blamed the UNP for plunging the CEB into the mess it was today. He said the UNP regime's move to privatize the CEB had stirred a revolt in the institution which eventually led to the CEB incurring a loss of Rs. 26.7 billion.

Mr. Aluthgamage vowed the UPFA Government would go ahead with the Norrochcholai coal power plant and said that the Church too had conveyed his consent to the project.

The focus of the debate also turned to the Upper Kotmale project, which is strongly opposed by CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman.UNP MP Ranjith Maddumabandara said although the UPFA had repeatedly invited the CWC to join the government, Mr. Thondaman would never join them.

Jaffna District Parliamentarian K. Shivajilingam, who was in the centre of a controversy this week, caused a minor stir again when he said that if the government refused to resume the peace process by agreeing to discuss the ISGA proposals, it should be prepared to face the question of war or peace.

He warned that the failure to talk peace would send a signal to the Tamil people that they had no alternative but to work towards a separate Tamil state and they would one day hoist the Thamil Eelam flag at the United National Organisation.

JVP group leader Wimal Weerawansa raised a point-of-order, saying that members who were bound to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country should not make such statements as it violated the oath.

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