Parliament

Government and opposition parliamentarians yesterday commended the function of the Sectoral Oversight Committees during the last three and half years.

Chief Opposition Whip Mahinda Amaraweera told in Parliament yesterday that forming the Sectoral Oversight Committees is a constructive move of the government and the opposition commends the move.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the Sectoral Oversight Committees are in function in the US Parliament but none of the opposition members preside any of those consultative committees.

He said that yet in Sri Lankan Parliament, of the 16 Sectoral Oversight Committees, many are chaired by the opposition members.

Speaker Jayasuriya said the Sectoral Oversight Committees meet on the non sitting days. He appreciated their work and said they work day and night to reduce the work loads.

The members commended the Sectoral Oversight Committees following the UNP Parliamentarian Prof. Ashu Marasinghe presented in Parliament the report of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Education and Human Resources Development.

Conflict between President, Prime Minister has affected country’s economy – Dinesh

The conflict between the President and the Prime Minister has affected the economy of the country, Mahajana Eksath Peramuna leader Dinesh Gunawardena said in Parliament yesterday.

He was participating in the debate on proposal to extend State of Emergency for one more month moved by Leader of the House and Minister Kiriella.

MP Gunawardena said the conflict between the two highest post holders has collapsed the economy and national policies are not implemented and the government is divided. “The Elections Commission Chairman has informed the government to hold the Provincial Council Elections,” MP Gunawardena said. “Now the funds of the provincial councils are directed to the governors of the provinces which is undemocratic,” he said.

MP Gunawardena said the intelligence had warned and reported of the Easter Sunday attacks beforehand. “By ignoring those warnings, the country’s security was placed in jeopardy,” MP Gunawardena said. “If those reports and warnings were considered, we could have averted the disaster,” he said.

He said the President has told that he would not go before the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating the Easter Sunday attacks to testify.

The statement shows that the parliamentary procedures are not respected and followed. He said that under this situation, the country is led towards anarchy and the government to a mess.

“Some doctors were attacked in Kalutara,” MP Gunawardena said. “How could that happen when there was State of Emergency and security measures in place?” he queried.


President is duty bound to appear before PSC – Hirunika

Colombo District Parliamentarian Hirunika Premachandra told Parliament yesterday that President Maithripala Sirisena is duty bound to appear before the Parliament Select Committee inquiring into the Easter Sunday terror attacks, in his capacity as the Defence Minister.

She was participating in the debate on extending State emergency for one more month.

MP Premachandra said the President holds Defence Ministry. “So, he is duty bound to appear before the PSC. It is his duty. He has an obligation before all those who had been killed and their family members to go before the committee,” she said.

Premachandra said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremeisnghe has expressed his willingness to testify before the PSC. “All the top officials who had already given testimonies before the PSC were President’s men. The President appointed all of them,” she said.

MP Premachandra said they could hold Temple Trees forcibly when Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed the Prime Minister. “They had the power to use their force then. So, they could have gone to the National Security Council by force because they are entitled to go there even if the President would not invite them,” she said.

Premachandra invited SLFP MP Dayasiri Jayasekara to join the United National Front.


Anti-Muslim campaign carried out following Easter Sunday attacks – Amir Ali

Some political forces launched an anti-Muslim campaign following the Easter Sunday carnage to meet their political goals, former State Minister UNP MP Amir Ali told Parliament yesterday.

He was participating in the debate on extending State of Emergency for one more month.

MP Ali said communal disharmony was instilled to subjugate the Muslims, so that they could play the game for their benefit.

“Rishad Bathiudeen was named a terrorist. Now the Army Commander has told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that he had no influence from Bathuideen to release terrorists. That testimony ended allegations against Bathuideen. Some political forces try to make a rift between communities. The Cardinal, too, has asked to reveal the names of those who led the people against the Muslims. Those responsible for the crime should be brought before the PSC. The PSC should continue,” Ali said.

“About 2,375 people are in the custody for the Easter Sunday attacks and of them, around 100 are in remand. These are unjust arrests. Muslims had no links with Zahran’s terror groups. It is the Muslims who provided information about Zahran and his men. For the political advantage, the Muslims are harassed. All these are done for the narrow political gains. The PSC must investigate all these. Justice should be done,” Ali said.


‘PM informed on Gamage’s failure to answer Opposition’s questions’

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday said he informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the failure of Primary Industries and Social Empowerment Minister Daya Gamage to answer the questions raised by opposition members under the standing order 27(2) in Parliament.

The Speaker responded when Opposition MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake queried if Minister Daya Gamage would answer his statement under the standing order 27 (2) made few weeks back on misappropriation of Samurdhi Funds.

UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri said the opposition should remember how Samurdhi fund was misused during the previous regime. He said the opposition should make a complaint with the FCID and should not sling mud at the government to take political advantages.

Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that all he could do in his capacity was to inform the Minister to come and answer the questions raised by the members.

He said the Speaker should take action against the Minister for failing to answer the questions raised under standing orders 27(2). He said the members who raised the questions could take actions against those Ministers who fail to answer.

JVP MP Anura Dissanayake said Rs. 300 million was spent on publicity and on printing new t-shirts by Minister Gamage and he should answer to these allegations in Parliament.

Speaker Jayasuriya said he had informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the matter.


Legal actions can be taken against 263 suspects in Easter Sunday attacks – Bandara

Legal actions can be taken against 263 suspects taken into custody for Islamic terrorist activities following the Easter Sunday carnage, Development Strategies and International Trade Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara yesterday said.

He was opening the debate on the extension of emergency status for another month.

Deputy Minister Bandara said 2,389 suspects were arrested for Islamic terrorist activities and of them, 236 are in remand custody and 189 are under detention order.

“Attorney General’s opinion has been sought on 94 and files for 42 more suspects will be sent to AG seeking legal advice. Seven suspects were released,” Deputy Minister Bandara said.

The Deputy Minister said around 120 main suspects were in custody for the Easter Sunday attacks at the Criminal Investigation Department, Terrorist Investigation Division and the Colombo Crime Division. “Seventy nine suspects are in custody of the CID, 29 under the TID and 29 more under the CCD. To collect information and carry out investigation on these suspects, it is important to extend the emergency,” he said.

Bandara said 51 suspects in custody have attended the lectures conducted by the suicide bomber Zaharan. “We have to take strict measures when releasing these suspects. They have no connections to the terrorist activities. But they have attended the extremist speeches by Zaharan. We have to rehabilitate these persons before releasing them,” Bandara said.

The Deputy Minister said military forces can be deployed to provide security to schools only when emergency law persists. “Sri Lanka Police does not have enough officers to deploy at schools. It needs assistance of the military forces for that,” he said.

Deputy Minister Bandara said legal actions are taken against 151 suspects who were arrested for communal violence following the Easter Sunday carnage. He said that some groups with political agendas are trying to instigate communal violence and destabilise the country.


JVP MPs had no prior knowledge of Easter Sunday attacks – Anura Kumara

None of the six JVP MPs had any prior knowledge or information on the Easter Sunday attacks, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said.

He said that several “so called experts” have alleged that all Parliamentarians were warned of the terror attacks prior to April 21. Dissanayake vehemently denied the allegation and said the JVP parliamentarians did not receive such information as they do not employ any security guards for their safety.

“The intelligence warnings were sent to MPs’ security divisions. We do not have any bodyguards. So the allegation that all 225 had prior knowledge on the terror attacks is baseless,” Dissanayake said.

Dissanayake said politicians who secure the trust of the public do not need bodyguards.

Dissanayake said that before hunting down government officers, politicians who are responsible should be held accountable of the terrorist attacks.

He accused Muslim leaders of not voicing their concerns on growing Islamic terrorism in Parliament.

“We know that the Muslim community made complaints about these extremists. Did Parliamentarian voice the concerns in Parliament? I would like to tell these Muslim leaders not to try using their people’s actions against terrorism as of their own,” he said.

Dissanayake said the JVP shall do everything in its power to bring the true culprits of the Easter Sunday attacks before the public.

“The government is trying to use the PSC for their own benefit. But we shall not allow that. We will reveal the true culprits of the Easter Sunday carnage before the public,” Dissanayake said.


State of Emergency extended

The extension of the emergency regulations by another month was passed in Parliament without a vote yesterday.

The proposal was tabled by Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella. By the time the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) raised objections to the extension and called for a division, the proposal was already passed. Speaker Jayasuriya said TNA’s objection will be recorded.

Defence State Minister Ruwan Wijewardena, concluding the debate on the extension, said Islamic jihadist terrorists will not be able to operate in groups in Sri Lanka in the future.

Minister Wijewardena said that there might be a “lone wolf” or two who operate in isolation. Other than such a threat, the country is safe from jihadist terrorist activities, the Minister said.

“The terrorist activits who took up the leadership from Zaharan were already either killed or detained. They would not be able to operate in groups or organise attacks again,” Minister Wijewardena said.

Minister Wijewardena said military forces are carrying out investigations on Islamic terrorist activities.

“We arrested a person who had close connections with Zaharan recently. Such people are in the country who have supported Zaharan’s group by funding. We need to detain those persons,” he said.

Wijewardena said the government will not extend the Status of Emergency again.

Minister Wijewardena assured that no foreign military force or country shall be allowed to set up camps in the country. He said that no such agreement on giving lands to the USA has been signed by the government.

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