Columns - Lobby

The Indian factor sets House on fire

By Nadia Fazlulhaq

Heated arguments sparked off this week’s sittings in Parliament, following Upcountry People’s Front Leader and Minister P. Chandrasekaran’s controversial statement, which opposition members charged was totally contrary to the governments’ stance on India’s involvement on the Sri Lankan issue.
The Social Inequality Eradication minister’s view on supporting South Indian politicians including Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, raised a few eye brows of government ministers.

The issue was raised in the Legislature by National Freedom Front group leader MP Wimal Weerawansa who questioned how Minister Chandrasekaran can make such a statement, which went against the governments’ present military operations, while enjoying ministerial benefits. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe pointed out that when a minister makes a statement in Parliament, he must remember he is bound by the collective responsibility within the Cabinet.

However, Chief Government Whip Minister Dinesh Gunewardene and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama both pointed out that his statement was made as the leader of a party and that it was clearly his party’s view and not that of the government.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama rarely seen in Parliament was seen throughout this week, making various comments and statements regarding the Sri Lanka - India issue. Opposition MPs did not fail to hint that instead of him a ‘new’ foreign minister had been appointed to visit India.

The National Freedom Front (NFF) and the JVP were in one voice when they charged that the government should take a stronger stand when it comes to interference from foreign countries. Meanwhile, expressing a different viewpoint senior UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella told the House they supported India’s view that the war can be ended only through a political solution.

He said although the government tells that they would come up with a political solution they have failed to do so adding that ministers go on futile trips to New-Delhi while the real need was to go to South India and meet its leaders.

Another issue that caused heated scenes was the new traffic plans during parliament days, which has inconvenienced thousands of commuters. At least some MPs seem to be feeling the pinch as well.UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera raising a privilege issue in the House on Friday said he was held up for half an hour on the Parliament road due to the present new traffic rule. He complained that although ministers and the MPs of the government were allowed to pass, opposition MPs were not.

He questioned whether the traffic arrangement was introduced to provide more security for the recently appointed MP Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, to which no answer was forthcoming from the government side.

When the question of security came up, the Speaker W.J.M.Lokubandara expressed surprise on learning that he was not included in the category of ‘VVIPs’ but a VIP. The Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, former presidents and present MPs’ also do not fall into this category, which is exclusively for the ruling president, ministers and governors and chief ministers.

He told the leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva to hold an immediate inquiry on why they have not been included as ‘VVIP’s in the circular endorsed by the former IGP, Victor Perera.


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