Pruning of Samurdhi beneficiaries creates storm in parliament


JO members Siripala Gamlath and Priyankara Jayaratne protesting in parliament against depriving poor people of Samurdhi benefits.

By Saman Indrajith

Parliament sittings were suspended for about 25 minutes yesterday morning by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya following protests by joint opposition MPs who accused the government of depriving low income families of their Samurdhi benefits.

The Joint Opposition (JO) members, who were wearing black arm bands or scarves as a token of protest, displayed posters and shouted slogans against the government.

JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena alleged that the government was revising the list of Samurdhi beneficiaries and as a result a large number of low income families had been denied Samurdhi benefit. 

"I demand to know under what basis the government is revising the list and how many beneficiaries will be deprived of Samurdhi. Do you admit that political allegiance is the basis of the revision of the list?" Gunawardena asked.

The JO members circulated black bands and placards among their group members. The posters read, "Immediately stop Samurdhi curtailment", "Do not touch the Social Security Fund" and "Ministers, aren’t you ashamed of slashing Samurdhi benefits while importing luxury vehicles". However, MP Chamal Rajapaksa was neither wearing a black band nor supporting the demonstration.  

Chief Government Whip and Minister Gayantha Karunathilake, while stating that Social Welfare and Empowerment Minister S B Dissanayake would reply to the question raised, assured that the revision had been made in an impartial manner and that nobody would face any injustice. The minister reminded the House that the low income families supporting the UNP had been deprived of Samurdhi benefit for 20 long years. 

Chief Opposition Whip and JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake requested the government to halt the reducing the number of Samurdhi beneficiaries till the subject minister made a clarification to the House.

Deputy Minister Ajith Perera said that he was of the opinion that Samurdhi benefit must be given to all low income families irrespective of their political allegiances.

The Speaker suspended the sittings around 11.30am as his repeated requests for the JO MPs not to disrupt the proceedings went unheeded. As the sittings resumed at 11.55am following a Party Leaders’ meeting, Minister Karunathilake told the House that Minister S B Dissanayake would answer the question today (11).

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