The Opposition yesterday (20) stressed in Parliament that since the consensual Government has not renewed its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), all MPs in excess of 30 holding Cabinet portfolios are illegal. As a result of that, the Government does not hold the power to rule the country, they claimed. The validity of the current Government was brought into question once again when Chief Opposition Whip and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake raised a point of order.
Dissanayake said that the term of the Government ended on 31 December 2017.
“According to the provisions of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, only a consensual Government can increase the number of Ministers to over 30. Parliament approved a term of two years for this Government in 2015 and according to that, the number of Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, and State Ministers was increased. Now, the term has come to an end. If the Government wants to continue, they should renew the MoU which has not been done so far. Now, we have a question for the Ministers. Are their posts legal?” Dissanayake queried and added that they are not ready to accept the said Ministers.
Joint Opposition (JO) MP Dullas Alahapperuma also agreed with Dissanayake. He said that the JO also raised this question. “The JO totally agrees with the JVP’s stance on this matter. Only 24 Ministerial portfolios are valid at the moment, but the problem is that we do not know who holds the valid Ministerial posts. This situation is not good for the country. We are not trying to fish in troubled water, but the political stability of the country has been threatened due to this matter.” Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella then said that the consensual Government still prevails. “The partners of the Government have not split. We stay together,” Kiriella added.
Dissanayake: The Leader of the House is answering to a different question. We did not ask if they split. What we want to know is something else. Even if the two parties are together, the Parliament has not been informed about it. When the National Unity Government was formed two years back, Parliament’s approval was sought. Now, there is no Parliamentary approval for continuing the consensual Government. So how could we accept the bills presented by these Ministers?
JO MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara, at this juncture, said that the term of the Government does not get renewed automatically. The Government is using hijacked power to run the Ministries, he added.
JO Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena: The then General Secretary of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Professor Wiswa Warnapala informed the Speaker about the formation of the Unity Government. He said that the term was only for two years. Now, that term is over. Has anyone informed the Speaker about extending the term of the Unity Government?
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya: No. I have not been informed about it so far.
MP Gunawardena: Then, the Speaker should take a decision. The Government cannot continue without the approval of the House.
Otherwise, the number of Ministers would have to come down to 30 and the number of State and Deputy Ministers to 40.
The Speaker said that he would make necessary inquiries and inform the House.