UPFA constituents demand recognition as parties in Parliament, cite precedent

Members of alliances are not recognized as separate parties in Parliament – Leader of the House



by Saman Indrajith


Minister of Town Planning and Water Resources Rauff Hakeem in Parliament yesterday made a single-handed attempt to counter arguments of UPFA opposition group who alleged unjust allocation of parliament time and other privileges to them.


The UPFA opposition group leaders complained to the Speaker that they were not given time to participate in debates and attend party leaders’ meetings. Their voice had been silenced by the government by making use of technicalities, they said, calling on the Speaker to solve the issue on the basis of traditions of Parliament.


NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa: We have been deprived of our right to participate in debates and party leaders’ meetings. We need to exercise our rights as MPs. The Speaker has not given his opinion on this issue. We have discussed this matter individually and collectively with the Speaker. We call upon the Speaker to give a ruling without further delay.


Speaker Karu Jayasuriya: We have made some decisions at the Party Leaders’ meeting on this issue. I will inform the House of them within this week.


Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella: This parliament recognises only six parties. We do not recognise you as leaders of parties accepted by this Parliament.


As there was shouting in the Chamber from opposition MPs, the Speaker said that he would give a ruling on the matter on the basis of parliamentary traditions.


Leader of the House: The Speaker has already stated that he recognises only six parties.


NFF Leader Weerawansa: The JVP contested under the UPFA in 2004 general election. Thereafter they deserted the government and became independent within one year and it was accepted as a separate party in Parliament. You must abide by that precedence.


NLF Leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara: Then we were an alliance of several parties. All leaders of parties were recognised and allowed to attend party leaders’ meeting. Time in debates was allocated accordingly.


Leader of the House: We cannot do so. Your rhetoric won’t do. You can’t frighten us into submission. I am against taking this matter repeatedly. We do not recognise parties within alliances. These members came to parliament thanks to the SLFP. Today the SLFP does not exist in Parliament. These members have hijacked the SLFP for their gain.


Kurunegala District UNP MP Nalin Bandara: I entered Parliament from the UNP. I, too, say I am from a separate party and register it. Will this House then allocate a front row seat for me?


MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena: The precedence shows us that UPFA’s member parties had earlier been recognised as separate parties. You cannot argue against precedents. Your plan is to silence dissenting MPs. That amounts to a serious violation of human rights. There is a move to silence the main party in the opposition.


Speaker Jayasuriya: There is no such move.


MEP Leader Gunawardena: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe accepted that all political parties should be recognised. Does the Leader of the House speak against it? Does the Leader of the House contradict the Prime Minister’s position?


Minister of Town Planning and Water Resources Rauff Hakeem: MP Gunawardena has become so emotional in fighting for rights. I have been victimised on the same ground in last parliament. I was not given my due right as the leader of the SLMC on the grounds that I had contested on the UNP ticket. I was not recognised as a party leader then. My rights were taken away. (Pointing at MP Gunawardena) It was he who did that! He was the Chief Government Whip then. That is the precedence!


MP Gunawardena: He jumped from one party to another each year. It was the then Speaker decided that you were a member of the UNP.


Speaker Jayasuriya: There are traditions and precedence, and I will study all of them. I will make known my position within this week. I will not deprive MPs of their right to speak. But, we must abide by traditions.


Matara District UPFA MP Chandrasiri Gajadheera: The very same government that seeks the support of all parties to move forward does not recognise parties and thereby deprives the rights of MPs in the opposition. You cannot run a country in this manner.


Speaker: I will study this matter and let the House know my decision.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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