‘Don’t do in dinning room what is done in toilet,’ Speaker tells MPs of both sides


by Saman Indrajith

Incidents during the debate on the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) Bill in the House on Thursday had caused huge damage to the dignity and decorum of Parliament and both the government and the Opposition should be ashamed of it, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said yesterday.

Jayasuriya said the Joint Opposition MPs were entitled to stage protests but they had to be mindful of when and where they should do so. "Politicians may be rebellious when staging protests. But such protests should be held at appropriate places like the Lipton Circus and the Hyde Park not in the Well of Parliament. They should act with some restraint when registering their protest against something in Parliament."

"The MPs should not choose the dining room to do what they are supposed to in a lavatory (vesikiliye karana de kema kamaraye karranna epa)," the Speaker said.

Referring to a report on what happened during the passing of the Bill published in a Sinhala daily, the Speaker said according to some media some MPs were singing songs inside the chamber. "Both government and opposition should be ashamed of this situation," he said.

MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena requested the Speaker to review the procedure followed in passing the Office of Missing Persons Bill because it had been passed in violation of the Constitution.

He said the members of the proposed office of missing persons were to be appointed by the Constitutional Council. But the said office did not come under the independent commissions that were appointed by the Constitutional Council under the 19th amendment to the constitution. That situation would amount to usurping the powers of the executive president. "That was what we needed to highlight yesterday but the government did not allow us. The Bill was not passed in accordance with the Standing Orders," he said.

Speaker Jayasuriya: I gave the Joint Opposition MPs the opportunity to speak. But, they were not willing to go back to their places and remained in the well of the house shouting.

Dignity of Parliament had suffered as the Opposition MPs disrupted the debate, Leader of the House Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella said. The opportunity to hold an effective debate on the OMP Bill and to discuss a host of interesting issues had been lost owing to the irrational behaviour of the Joint Opposition. "It would have been possible to discuss the events of 1971, 1987 to 1989 and many more, but the drama that took place on Thursday had prevented that opportunity. Parliament has lost though the Bill was passed," he said blaming the Opposition for protesting inside the chamber.

Joint opposition MP Vasudeva Nanayakara said that it was the government that should take the blame for the disruption of the session. "A proper debate could have been held if the government agreed to the opposition demand to put off voting for another day," he said.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that there had been a deal between the government and the Joint Opposition to prevent a proper debate on the OMP bill. The government followed a stubborn attitude in getting the legislation passed preventing the JVP MPs from getting certain things clarified and to make effective amendments to the bill. "We wanted to seek clarifications on certain clauses of the Bill and state our objections to some other clauses but the drama which took place inside the well of the chamber prevented all this. The protest staged by the Joint Opposition was a result of a deal they got into with the government. The joint opposition jumped into the well of the House to enable the government to pass the Bill without any difficulty. We can also talk of other deals between the government and the joint opposition under which certain people are allowed to get away from corruption charges," he said.

Joint opposition MP Sriyani Wijewickrama complained that a government MP Wijepala Hettiarachchi had abused her verbally during the passing of the OMP Bill. "The MP had made nasty remarks about me and abused me verbally," she said adding that her parliamentary privileges were breached.

Speaker Jayasuriya requested MP Wijewickrama to make a written complaint and assured that he would look into the matter.

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