Govt. lawmakers in dilemma over SLPP membership

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Public Administration, Home Affairs and Justice Minister Susil Premjayantha yesterday said that they could address issues caused by their obtaining membership of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Attorney-at-law Premjayantha said that they were confident of overcoming any issue in this regard.

Addressing the media at the Western Province Aesthetic Resort, Premjayantha said that they were in the process of discussing electoral arrangements. Premjayantha was flanked by lawmakers C B Ratnayake and Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Premjayantha said so when The Island inquired whether they had taken SLPP membership as well as the number of UPFA lawmakers out of 95-member group who joined the new political party at the expense of the SLFP, government members said some switched allegiance to the SLPP. The Island pointed out that the query was whether they (Premjantha, Ratnayake and Abeywardena) received SLPP membership wasn’t answered. Then Ratnayake said that he took membership. Two other MPs too acknowledged they were members of the SLPP. The Island asked whether those who took SLPP membership felt now they had acted hastily.

The Island raised the issue in the wake of the UNP declaring that it would take it up with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. UNP MP Mayantha Dissanayake told the media the party would seek clarification from the Speaker whether those lawmakers who obtained SLPP membership could remain in parliament as per the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Of the 95 members elected on the UPFA ticket, more than 50 took SLPP membership soon after President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved parliament at midnight Nov 10.

Premjayantha acknowledged that there were five recognized political parties and groups in parliament. The minister admitted that the UNP, UPFA, TNA, EPDP, JVP and SLMC were represented in the parliament.

Abeywardena alleged that the JVP had supported the UNP-TNA project that was threatening to divide the country. The former Southern Province Chief Minister Abeywardena said that in terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Provincial Councils enjoyed sufficient powers to develop provinces. Declaring his strong opposition to devolution of political power to Provincial Councils, Abeywardena alleged that the TNA was on a destructive project.

At the onset of the media briefing, government members asserted that the TNA couldn’t continue to hold the Office of the Opposition Leader after having voted with the UNP on Wednesday (Dec 12). The Opposition Leader’s post should be given to the genuine Opposition, they said.

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