Prez admits situation in Parliament pathetic


President Maithripala Sirisena speaking to editors of national newspapers and senior print and electronic media representatives at the President’s House in Colombo yesterday.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Maithripala Sirisena, yesterday, acknowledged that the parliamentary standards had deteriorated to such an extent that the once august institution was now struggling to maintain a quorum for its sittings.

Recently, parliament sittings were adjoured on three consecutive days for want of a quorum. Last week, parliament sittings were put off for want of quorum in the immediate aftermath of the ‘Jana Balaya Colombata’ campaign.

President Sirisena said that the failure on the part of Parliament to ensure at least sufficient attendance of 20 out of 225 MPs highlighted the decaying of political culture. President Sirisena said so in response to The Island query at the media briefing at the President’s House.

Asked whether as the President as well as the leader of the SLFP what he could do along with leaders of other political parties to tackle growing absenteeism among lawmakers, President Sirisena said that in spite of a range of perks and privileges, including an attendance allowance given to members, absenteeism was high.

President Sirisena admitted that his own efforts hadn’t been successful. The Island also pointed out that political parties, including the SLFP, headed by him, couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for squandering taxpayers’ money on Parliament. President acknowledged that there was food waste due to lawmakers skipping the House sittings.

The Island also sought President Sirisena’s position on the JVP’s 20th Amendment that proposed Parliament to choose the next President. Asked whether it would be wise to handover that responsibility to Parliament against the backdrop of all sorts of accusations against lawmakers, President said that they were yet to receive the proposal.

When The Island proposed that such a move was certainly not wise due to the current situation, President said that was true.

President Sirisena explained that the absence of a clear majority for any political party represented in parliament had contributed to the deterioration of parliamentary standards.

President Sirisena said that the vast majority of people’s representatives had stopped regularly visiting their electorates/districts as they were busy pursuing different lifestyles in Colombo.

Responding to another query from the media, President Sirisena said that a Sinhala weekly had been launched recently to attack him. Having named the newspaper, President Sirisena said that his daughter was attacked in its first issue over having a bar license.

The president, however, did not deny the story.

President said that the same newspaper repeatedly falsely accused him of interfering in CID investigations into high profile cases involving security forces personnel. The President strongly denied meddling in CID investigations.

President Sirisena also confirmed an investigation undertaken by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) into the alleged involvement of DIG, Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in an attempt to assassinate him and former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. President Sirisena said that claims had been made that they were targeted because some feared they could get together.

A member of media told the President that even the IGP was involved in the plot. The President assured that a full investigation would be carried out. Responding to media queries, the President defended the decision to hand over the inquiry to the SIU as it was responsible for such matters.

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