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New Parliament sworn in:
Chamal elected Speaker unanimously
Ranil recognised as Opposition Leader

The Seventh Parliament was sworn in yesterday. As the day’s business commenced, after the Secretary General announced that it was time for the election of a new Speaker of the House, Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne proposed the name of senior UPFA MP and former Minister Chamal Rajapaksa. It was seconded by front row UNP MP Karu Jayasuriya.

Yesterday’s session commenced around 8.45 a.m., some 45 minutes earlier than usual. Not all the MPs were present for the first day of the seventh Parliament. Some were seen arriving late. Even the Opposition Leader arrived only seconds before the swearing in.

DNA Leader Gen. (retd) Sarath Fonseka, flanked by DNA members, arrived in the Chamber. The first thing he did inside the House was to wave at the British and US envoys in the VIPgallery. Despite what was reported in the media following his arrest, he seemed to be in good and sound health and was seen cheerfully chatting with Opposition members. Many Opposition MPs shook hands with him.

The other jubilant member was the new Prime Minister Jayaratne, who was seen surrounded by well wishers. He said the consensual approach the government and the Opposition had adopted in electing the new Speaker must continue for the sake of the country, whose bane was confrontational politics. He said the Seventh Parliament was lucky to have elected as Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, who had an unblemished record as a parliamentarian.

UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe congratulated the new Speaker and new PM. He said that Chamal had been known to him for a long time and he knew that the new Speaker would never betray the trust placed in him by the undivided House. The new Speaker must work to regain the supremacy of Parliament. Sri Lanka is the oldest parliamentary democracy in Asia, he said.

ITAK leader R. Sampanthan said that the unanimous election of Chamal Rajapaksa as the new Speaker reflected the trust the House had in him. He said the ITAK wished that the Seventh Parliament would be able to deliver an acceptable solution for the national problem.

Other leaders who congratulated the new Speaker were General (retd) Sarath Fonseka (DNA), Rauf Hakim (SLMC), Douglas Devananda (EPDP), Aturaliye Ratna Thero (JHU), Rishad Bthudeen (ACMC), A. L. M. Athuallah (Ashraff Congress), and P. Diagambaram (NUW).

The MPs took oaths collectively after which the House proceeded to elect a Deputy Speaker and the Deputy Chairman of Committees. Prime Minister Jayaratne proposed the name of MP Piyankara Jayaratne as the Deputy Speaker. It was seconded by UNP frontliner John Amaratunga. Nimal Siripala De Silva proposed the name of Jaffna District MP Chandrakumar Murugesu for the post of Deputy Chairman of Committees. It was seconded by EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda.

The galleries were packed with diplomats, well wishers, family members and relatives of new MPs.

Shortly afterwards, the Speaker announced that UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had been recognised as the Opposition Leader of the new Parliament. The announcement was welcomed by the Government MPs who thumped their desks and clapped for a while even after the Opposition MPs had stopped clapping.

The session ended around 10.00 a.m. and the House adjourned till May 4.

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