by Shamindra Ferdinando
Due to forced resignations, manipulation of the
much abused National List, political deals and assassinations,
two of them last month, had brought in 24 ‘replacements’ to
In fact, the number of substitutes is the
highest in any parliament since the introduction of the
proportional representation system brought in during President
JR Jayewardene’s tenure. The substitutes are categorised as MPs
elected due to resignation of members (15), deaths and
assassination (7) and absent continuously for three months (2).
The change brought by the newcomers beside a
total of 24 UNP MPs switching their allegiance to President
Rajapaksa had significantly altered the complexion of the House.
Of them, 18 led by Karu Jayasuriya crossed over on January 28
In fact, there would have been 25 UNP MPs with
Rajapaksa had Gampaha District MP Edward Gunasekera not gone
back to beleaguered UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
In this backdrop, Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandra’s
recent assertion that the voters were responsible for the
deterioration of parliamentary standards as they had chosen
their representatives irresponsibly, should be critically
analysed, an official said. In fact, there was absolutely no
basis for what the official called the Speaker’s unsubstantiated
statement made at a recent function at the Waters Edge. The
press routinely referred to the appointment of Dr. Mervyn Silva
through the National List while ignoring a whole lot of other
controversial nominations, he said.
The recent accident which killed dissident SLFP
MP Sripathy Sooriyarachchi, a vociferous critic of the Rajapaksa
brothers, will bring Reggie Ranatunga, a Rajapaksa loyalist to
Parliament. Ranatunga who unsuccessfully contested the Gampaha
District at the last parliamentary elections is the second to
enter parliament to fill a vacancy. Gampaha District JVP MP S.
Amarasinghe quit in April 2006 to pave the way for Sarath Kumara
Gunaratne. Amarasinghe who polled a staggering 128,633
preference votes claimed that he decided to quit due to illness.
But he recently accepted a well paid government appointment. In
fact, it wouldn’t have come out if Minister Kumar Welgama’s
ministry hadn’t released a photograph of the handing over of the
Over a dozen MPs including two Buddhist monks,
who had been both elected and appointed to Parliament on the
National List at the last election in April 2004, had quit their
seats over a variety of reasons.
Perhaps UNP National List MP Seyed Ali Zaheer
Moulana was the only politician to forfeit his seat on
disciplinary grounds. His crime was helping renegade LTTE
commander Vinayagamoorthy Karuna to reach Colombo. He quit on
June 23, 2004 and his vacancy was filled by Meeramohideen
Mohammed Musthaffa who ended up on President Rajapaksa’s lap in
late January last year. Ironically, the President had
accommodated Moulana who ended up in the US on our diplomatic
mission in Washington, a well paid assignment. Political sources
said that both Moulana and Musthaffa didn’t get an opportunity
to contest the last election as a hotly disputed UNP-SLMC
electoral pact prohibited the UNP from fielding Muslim
candidates in districts contested by the SLMC.
The sources said that eight UNP, SLMC, CWC and
Upcountry People’s Front National List MPs (all appointed
through the UNF List) switched their allegiance to the ruling
coalition. G.L. Peiris, Naveen Dissanayake, M.S. Sellasamay, ,
P. Radhakrishnan, K.A. Baiz, Hussain Bhahila, M.M.M.Musthaffa,
and S. Nijamudeen. Of the 29 National List MPs, there are only
seven including three JVPers in the Opposition ranks. Had the
UPFA kept its post-election promise, the JVP would have had five
National List slots.
UNP National List MP Vadivel Puthrasigamany,
too, has been generally supportive of the ruling coalition. He
is among three MPs who function as independent members with
others being one-time JVP heavyweight Nandana Gunatilleke and
Ven. Uduwe Dhamaloka thero. All of them have taken a
transparently pro-government line.
The decision to switch MPs began even before
Parliament met with the SLFP directing Janadasa Peiris of
President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s media team, trade unionist
E.A.D Weerasekera and J.A. May Lucida, the wife of Dr. Mervyn
Silva to quit immediately after taking oaths. They quit on April
23, 2004. That paved the way for Ratnasiri Wickremanayake,
Wijedasa Rajapaksha and Mervyn Silva to enter Parliament.
Silva’s case was unique as he had contested the Colombo district
and badly lost but Chandrika Kumaratunga wanted him in the
House. Wickremanayake had been accidentally left out of the
National List while his son Vidura who contested Kalutara
district failed in his bid.
The SLFP would have accommodated Lucida on the
National List knowing that Mervyn wouldn’t have been able to
secure a seat.
The centre for Policy Alternatives vehemently
protested manipulation of the National List. But unfortunately
the CPA didn’t receive the required support from other civil
society organisations and the media.
The brawl in Parliament over the election of
Speaker in which Mervyn Silva figured prominently prompted JHU
MP Ven. Kolonnawe Sri Sumangala to quit his seat in October
2004. His vacancy was filled by Ven. Alawwe Nandaloka thero. Ven
Omalpe Sobitha quit his National List seat in January last year
to pave the way for Patali Champika Ranawaka to enter
Parliament. In fact, the JHU contemplated bringing in Udaya
Gammanpila in place of another monk last December just ahead of
the third reading of the Budget.
The assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar on
August 12, 2005 brought Dullas Alahapperuma to Parliament. The
National List MP’s assassination was the most serious target
killing carried out by the LTTE during the CFA agreement.
Alahapperuma who played a critical role in Premier Mahinda
Rajapaksa’s presidential election campaign re-entered Parliament
on December 14, 2005.
The assassinations of Nation Building Minister
D.M. Dassanayake (Puttalam District) and UNP MP T. Maheswaran
(Colombo District) in early January caused two vacancies. While
Dassanayake’s vacancy was filled by Priyankara Jayaratne (UPFA),
the other was filled by the SLMC. As the SLMC had contested on
the UNP ticket, Mohamed Shafeek Rajabdeen, western provincial
councillor had the opportunity to enter Parliament. Although his
entry has strengthened SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem’s four man
(including himself) parliamentary group comprising Basheer
Segudawaood (National List), Hasen Ali (national List) and
Mohammed Faizal (Digamadulla), Wickremesinghe’s had lost one
more. The UNP had been reduced to 41 members.
The untimely death of UPFA National List MP
Mohamed Ismail Anwar Ismail on September 13, last year brought
all powerful Basil Rajapaksa, MP, into Parliament within a week
after the demise of the MP. Ismail who was expected to step down
last September died before the scheduled deadline, thereby
allowing the President to accommodate his brother in Parliament.
Although he didn’t take a Cabinet portfolio, Basil R. who
operates from the offices of the President in Parliament has
brazenly displayed his authority.
Of the 22 member ITAK (TNA) parliamentary group,
two National List MPs, Joseph Pararajasingham, M. K. Eelaventhan
parliamentary political careers had been abruptly stopped. A
lone gunman killed Pararajasingham on Christmas Eve (2005) in
Batticaloa. Eelaventhan’s case was unique. The outspoken MP who
had fearlessly stood up for the rights of the Tamil speaking
people lost his seat after he was wrongly found guilty of being
absent for three months without informing Parliament.
Pararajasingham’s vacancy had been filled by Chandrakanthan
Chandranehru, the son of an assassinated MP. He took his oaths
on September 11, 2006. Bank of Ceylon employee Vigneswaran,
widely believed to the ITAK’s original choice was killed outside
Trincomalee branch of the BOC.
The assassination of ITAK MP Nadaraja Raviraj on
November 10, 2006 brought in Kandar Nallathambi Sri Kantha into
Parliament. Both assassination of Pararajasingham and Raviraj
had been blamed on the government and Tamil mercenaries on the
payroll of the State.
The resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa on November
19, 2005, two days after he won the presidential election, paved
the way for Mrs Nirupama Rajapaksa to re-enter parliament on
November 25, 2005.
Elected MP S.B. Dissanayake lost his seat to
Mrs. Renuka Herath. Dissanayake had been listed as having
vacated his seat on December 7, 2004. Herath took her oaths on
January 30th, 2006.
Among the others who quit their seats were ITAK
MP Kingsley Rajanayagam (April 18, 2004), UPFA MP Reginold
Cooray (May 28th, 2004), UPFA MP Maheepala Herath ( May 27th,
2004), JVP MP Philipps Kumarasinghe Sri Liyanage (May 24th,
2004), SLMC MP W.P.S. Pushpakumara (May 19th, 2004), SLMC MP
Mohammed Quddus (May 19th, 2004) and JHU MP Ven. Kahaluwe
Ratnaseeha thero (May 18th, 2004). Their vacancies had been
filled respectively by Ariyanethira Pakkiyaselvam, Nirmala
Kothalawela, H. R. Mithrapala, Mohammed Fuward Mohamed Mussammil,
Basheer Cegudawood, Sihandeen Nijamudden and Ven. Akmeemana