JO tongue-tied on MPs’ special monthly allowance query


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Joint Opposition spokesman MP Bandula Gunawardena yesterday struggled to explain why the JO couldn’t urge the yahapalana government to suspend Rs 100,000 special monthly payment made available to members of parliament.

The JO grouping loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa consisted of about 50 members.

MP Gunawardena said that he had foregone many perks and reprieves available to members of parliament.

Gunawardena was addressing the media at Punchi Borella. Former Education Minister Gunawardena was flanked by UPFA External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris.

When The Island pointed out that he hadn’t answered the relevant question, the Colombo District MP said that he could make an appeal though it would be up to individual MPs to decide.

Yahapalana government introduced a special scheme under which members of parliament are paid Rs. 100,000 each on a monthly basis.

The Island pushed Gunawardena for JO’s stand on Rs 100,000 additional payment after he demanded that the ruling coalition halted acquisition of super luxury vehicles for ministers and officials. MP Gunawardena, on behalf of the JO also requested the government to suspend all ongoing housing projects and channel funds for projects in areas devastated by last week’s floods.

Gunawardena flayed yahapalana leaders for not providing sufficient assistance to the needy. The MP alleged that the civil society and private television networks had done so much more than the government. He refrained from responding to The Island query whether he accepted the former government, too, took advantage of emergency relief work undertaken by private television stations.

Prof. Peiris questioned the rationale in squandering public funds to acquire vehicles for members of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly tasked with preparing a draft Constitution for Sri Lanka. Pointing out that Supplementary Estimates had never been presented in parliament for such a purpose, Prof. Peiris queried whether an attempt was being made to influence members of the Steering Committee.

Prof. Peiris raised the questionable government move to reward members of the Steering Committee in the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena suspending acquisition of super luxury vehicles for ministers until next year.

MP Gunawardena alleged that yahapalana government had changed the system pertaining to the acquisition of vehicles. When The Island pointed out that former Rajapaksa loyalist and current SLFP General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera had claimed on Hiru on Monday night that the previous government imported super luxury vehicles for ministers through devious means, MP Gunawardena explained the situation now and then.

The media was told of a move to acquire a water bowser for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Office. The JO said that it couldn’t comprehend why Premier Wickremesinghe’s Office required a water bowser as it wasn’t engaged in fire fighting or disaster management.

Gunawardena explained how his intervention at the parliamentary committee on public finance led to the recent suspension of a mega supplementary estimate to acquire vehicles for ministers. The MP said he called for an inquiry pertaining to the vehicles previously ordered before fresh orders were made. The SLFPer alleged that the whereabouts of some vehicles ordered previously weren’t known therefore an examination was required.

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