on fire as JVP, TNA turn guns on govt.
By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent
What was expected to be an uneventful week in Parliament
turned into a week of confusion and controversy raising serious
questions about the future of the ruling UPFA government. This was
after one of its main coalition partners -- the JVP threatened to
quit if the government went ahead and began talks with the LTTE
to set up an interim administrative structure as a prelude for discussions
on finding a final settlement to the national question.
JVP was reacting to a statement issued the previous night by the
Government Information Department saying the government was prepared
to set up an interim authority firstly to handle the urgent humanitarian
needs of the people of the northeast before holding talks to find
a permanent solution.
that the JVP had been kept in the dark about a change in the Government's
stance on the resumption of talks, JVP's Parliamentary group leader
Wimal Weerawansa dropped the bombshell on Thursday morning in Parliament
when he threatened to quit the alliance. The members of the other
constituent parties of the UPFA were caught unawares and had them
turning uncomfortably in their seats.
two senior UPFA/SLFPers who were present in the Chamber at the time
were Leader of the House Maithripala Sirisena and Buddha Sasana
Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake.
had the enthusiastic backing of the JVP legislators as he ripped
into his 12-page hand written statement, receiving extra applause
as he read out the threat to quit the government towards the end
of his speech.
as Mr. Weerawansa was turning up the heat inside the Chamber, legislators
of the TNA were marching into the House carrying posters accusing
the government of squandering away the three years of cessation
of hostilities by not making serious attempts to resume the stalled
peace talks and for using tsunami aid to buy arms. Hence they missed
Mr. Weerawansa's speech altogether because by the time they entered
the Chamber, the JVP MP had finished his speech.
was some support for the JVP statement from JHU MP Ven. Aturaliye
Ratana Thera who followed Mr. Weerawansa and asked that a responsible
Minister in the Government make its position clear on the basis
on which it would resume the talks. However there was no reaction
from the Government to the statement.
was an unproductive week in Parliament as far as legislation was
concerned. Although three Bills were lined up for passage, namely
the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill, the Eighteenth Amendment
to the Constitution and the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Bill,
none could be passed.
disaster management bill was introduced as an urgent bill and Chief
Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle told Parliament on Friday
that it had to be passed that day. But TNA Parliamentarian R. Sambanathan
and JHU MP Rev. Aturaliye Ratana Thera both wanted more time to
study the bill and make it acceptable to all parties before it was
the debate on the Bill was adjourned half way through and the next
sitting day on March 9 has been set for its approval. On Wednesday,
Justice Minister John Seneviratne introduced the 18th Amendment
to the Constitution which will increase the number of Appeal Court
Judges, from 11 to 21. It will also allow the setting up of five
provincial circuits over which the Appeal Court will exercise it's
MP Professor G.L. Peries called the legislation to increase the
number of judges "entirely desirable" and said it would
go a long way in reducing laws delays as there was at least 12,000
cases pending before the courts now and had been dragging on for
he said there was need for more severe penalties for criminals as
people lacked safety and security in their lives and it was necessary
to bring back people's confidence in national institutions with
a strict approach to offences.
MP Nadarajah Raviraj too welcomed the legislation but said there
was the need for a permanent Constitution for the country unlike
what was happening now when there were periodic amendments being
made. He said such a Constitution should embody the rights of all
the people in the country and would help solve the national problem
the debate on this Bill too had to be abandoned mid way after Kalutara
district MP Rajitha Senaratne spoke on the conduct of a judge, which
the Justice minister objected to on the grounds it breached Parliamentary
Standing Orders and with the subsequent uproar the debate was put
off for a later date.
Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill too could not be passed as
there were certain technical matters concerning it but it had the
backing of all parties and especially women legislators who spoke
en masse on how it would go a long way to protect women and children
from domestic violence.
news of the two Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) members -- a Minister
and a Deputy Minister having resigned their portfolios -- the position
of the UPFA government appeared even shakier by the time the sittings
ended on Friday. How the Government will weather the next two weeks
before sittings re-commence on March 9 is left to be seen.