Columns - Lobby

Treachery charge a red herring at debate

By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent

President Mahinda Rajapaksa may have lost the opportunity to address the Oxford Union due to protests by his detractors but when he came to Parliament on Friday to wind up the debate on the 2011 Budget, he did not shy away from pointing the finger at whom he thought was responsible for sabotaging the event.

Though the President did not name anyone, the inferences were obvious when he referred to, “those who worked with external forces to have the GSP plus preferential trade facility withdrawn” and of the “prime responsibility of parliamentarians to uphold the oath of office that pledges allegiance to the Constitution”.

The President’s words were not exactly new because Government members have been echoing similar sentiments throughout the week, first directing their anger at UNP Gampaha District MP Jayalath Jayawardene for allegedly playing a role in the Oxford Union fiasco and then turning their guns on UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya for reportedly calling for a probe on “war crimes” in a statement he issued to a newspaper.

The combined Jayawardena/Jayasuriya “acts of treachery”, as some government members put it, gave the perfect chance to deviate from the real issues that some MPs had raised during the committee stage of the Budget on the performances of each Ministry.

For External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris, the troubles of UNP MPs could not have come at a better time, especially when he was under fire for being responsible for failing to advice the President on his London tour. Instead of providing answers to pointed questions from UNP Kandy district MP Lakshman Kiriella about who organized the visit of the President and as to why the advice from the Sri Lanka High Commission in London to postpone the visit was disregarded, Minister Peiris chose to heap praise on the President for taking the brave decision to proceed to Britain even though he knew his visit would be met with protests.

“The President was clear about his decision to address the Oxford Union. He said he will not let a protest deter him from going abroad. He said I am not a leader who is afraid of protests. The President is very brave. He is not a coward. We are proud to have a leader like him,” were the repetitive words of the Minister when the committee stage debate of his Ministry was taken up.

The External Affairs Minister made it look like the President was the victor eventually because he braved the threat of protests to go to London, but the other side could well argue that they won by getting his address to the Oxford Union cancelled, which is what the President went there for in the first place.
Luckily for the government, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) provides them with enough whipping boys. Just as MP Jayalath Jayawardene’s issue was tapering off, a statement attributed to MP Karu Jayasuriya caused another uproar in Parliament with senior government members calling a hurried news conference to condemn the UNP Deputy Leader‘s alleged call for a probe on “war crimes”.

A day later MP Jayasuriya came to the House to make a statement clarifying that he had made no reference to “war crimes” anywhere in his statement and that the headline in the article was misleading. But this was not enough to convince government members who accused him of acting against the interests of the country and in favour of western forces conspiring against Sri Lanka.

Jayalath Jayawardene Karu Jayasuriya

Minister Wimal Weerawansacame down particularly hard on the UNP MP accusing him of donning the national suit and portraying himself as a patriot while working to an agenda set by the west. “If (UNP leader) Ranil Wickremesinghe made this kind of statement, it is not surprising but when you do it, it is very surprising,” he said. He also drew attention to the remarks by UNP Hambantota district MP Sajith Premadasa who said in Parliament that if anyone committed war crimes, it was the LTTE. “What is the position of the UNP on this issue? There are many versions coming from the same Party,” Minister Weerawansa pointed out.

The UNP Deputy Leader who is usually calm and collected by nature did not take kindly to the remarks of Minister Weerawansa reminding him that he had begun wearing the national dress in 1955 and was not one to wear western clothes when he went abroad and the national suit while in Sri Lanka. “I may not wear a label saying I am patriotic but I also love this country,” he said.

A parliamentary select committee against MP Jayawardene is likely to be appointed when the House meets in January after a resolution seeking such a committee was handed over to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa with the signatures of 78 government members. Mr. Jayawardene is accused of acting in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution under which parliamentarians pledge not to directly or indirectly support forces of separatism.

Several UNP MPs too have handed in a resolution to the Speaker asking for a select committee to probe the allegation made by the Chief Government Whip that MP Jayawardene was at a protest at Heathrow airport when the President arrived there. The UNP MP has vehemently denied this charge.

Both UNP MPs who are embroiled in controversy have accused the government of using them as scapegoats to either cover up the embarrassment caused by the Oxford Union mess up or to distract the attention of the people from issues such as the rising cost of living. While this may be true to some extent, opposition members will have to take some of the blame for getting themselves into such situations.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Other Columns
Political Column
At Oxford: A high degree of conspiracy
5th Column
Blaming is so easy; convincing so difficult
The Economic Analysis
Economic policies for rapid growth
Treachery charge a red herring at debate
Focus on Rights
Did we have to leap at Oxford’s invitation?
Talk at the Cafe Spectator
Pottinger: The bell tolls for Lanka
From the Sidelines
Britannia waives the rules - selectively
Column By Gomin Dayasri
Learning lessons at Oxford

Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2010 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution