A heavy shower, accompanied by thunder and lightning was pouring when Parliament took up the vote on the two gazette notifications, which critics say, will legalize Casinos and other forms of gaming activities.
It was scaring, and the opposition legislators made fun of the change of weather pattern in the evening. A similar climatic condition developed when the government attempted to secure parliamentary approval for the same projects last year, and it was a flood situation in Colombo. It rained heavily this time with terrifying thunder.
“Nature is furious. It has given vent to its anger today. There is thunder. The government has to be careful,” the opposition members remarked. And, their voices, though their mikes were not switched on, could be heard by attentive persons in the galleries above.
"For the first time in the present Parliament where the ruling party enjoys a two-thirds majority, its ally the JHU voted against the two regulations issued under the Strategic Development Act. JHU stalwarts Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thera and Technology and Research Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka were opposed to them."
Despite such frivolous talk associated with superstitions, the government received a warning signal though it won the vote with 112 and 109 votes respectively for the two gazette notifications. For the first time in the present Parliament where the ruling party enjoys a two-thirds majority, its ally the JHU voted against the two regulations issued under the Strategic Development Act. JHU stalwarts Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thera and Technology and Research Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka were opposed to them. Besides, three other allies, the National Freedom Front of Housing and Constructions Minister Wimal Weerawansa, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress of Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress of Rishad Bathiudeen were absent, and it was a defiance of the instructions of the government to be present for the vote. Also absent were numerous others. Some clearly defied the government’s instruction, whereas the others had personal engagements on that particular day to be away from Parliament.
The office of the Chief Government Whip submitted a report as usual outlining such abstentions. After the conclusion of every parliamentary week a report is submitted on the conduct of business. There was no exception this time. Besides, the office has no authority to take disciplinary action against absentees. Again, these were only gazette notifications which do not warrant the support of a special majority to be passed in Parliament. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the government will pursue action against those who were absent during the vote.
During the debate, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa were embroiled in a heated argument as they started charging at each other. Furious over Mr. Dissanayake’s criticisms, Minister Rajapaksa retorted that Casinos would not be permitted under the proposed three projects. He made some allegations against the JVP, and it provoked Mr. Dissanayake to respond with threats to expose some misdeeds and antics involving the 2005 Presidential Election campaign. JVP campaigned for President Mahinda Rajapaksa at that election, and its support was crucial to win the election, at least by a narrow margin. Later, it was revealed that the authorities of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had defaulted the payment of Rs.2.5 million to the JVP for the posters for the campaign in 2005. The UPFA owes this amount to the JVP.
During the vote on the gazette notifications on Friday, the entire House burst into laughter when a male MP imitated the voice of UNP MP Rosy Senanayake when her name was called for voting by Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody. The mischievous MP imitated her voice in such a humorous manner that Secretary General of Parliament Dammika Dissanayake was confused to know whether Ms. Senanayake was present or not.
Kelaniya Chairman and Lansa clash at Basil’s party
Minister Basil Rajapaksa organized a reception last Sunday in view of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year as well as his birthday that fell the following day.
All the Gampaha district ruling party politicians, including the local government members, were invited for it at the minister’s district office in Gampaha. On the occasion, the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Prasanna Ranaweera raised some issues of the Kelaniya Co-operative Society, which he said, was in disarray due to the ad hoc decisions. The matter was brought to the notice of the Western Province Minister Nimal Lansa who was present.
Visibly incensed by Mr. Ranaweera’s allegation, Mr. Lansa pounced on him with a verbal harangue.
“Who the hell is he to make such allegations? I do not care about this man,” he shouted.
"A similar climatic condition developed when the government attempted to secure parliamentary approval for the same projects last year, and it was a flood situation in Colombo. It rained heavily this time with terrifying thunder."
Annoyed and embarrassed, Mr. Ranaweera remarked, “I respect the Chief Minister who is present here. Also, I respect Mr.Rajapaksa.
Yet, I am not bothered by what others say. I have no business to respond to a person of this nature.”
Having said that, he walked out of the party despite requests by others present to stay back. However, his supporters, including some Pradeshiya Sabha members, lay in wait for Mr. Lansa to return from the party.
With little knowledge about such an ambush, he left the party and moved along the road in his vehicle with his security officers. Mr. Ranaweera’s men surrounded his vehicle, and used filthy words on him.
They tried to open the door of Mr. Lansa’s vehicle and drag him out, apparently to assault him.
“We wanted to deal with you after the reception. That is why, we are here. If you can, come out,” they threatened.
Mr. Lansa responded with equally obscene language. He once tried to pull himself out from the vehicle to confront the crowd, but his security officers prevented him from doing so, probably fearing any untoward incident.
Akila Viraj moved by cardiologist’s narrative
Recently, a cardiologist narrated the ordeal faced by a heart patient who was in the waiting list for a bypass surgery. In fact, the spouse of this patient had rebuked the cardiologist when he contacted her over the date for the surgery to be performed. By the time, the patient had died. The grieving spouse complained about her predicament.
“My husband was in the waiting list. We are poor people. We could not afford to undergo medical treatment at expensive private hospitals. My husband died,” she reportedly told the cardiologist.
The cardiologist was taken aback by her story. He could have taken steps to perform the surgery had he got the necessary facilities at state hospitals. It would save the lives of many such heart patients. He relayed this story to the UNP MP for the Kurunegala district Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.
MP Kariyawasam placed a question on the Order Paper of Parliament last week to be directed at the Health Minister. Instead of Minister Maithripala Sirisena, his deputy Lalith Dissanayake answered.
“Why don’t you increase at least the number of beds in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)? There are not even enough ICU beds. If the number is increased, the doctors say, more surgeries can be performed,” the MP said.
He even logged on to the internet from his personal iPad and checked the prices of ICU beds ranging from US $ 500 to US $ 3000.
A few ambassadors and High Commissioners, accredited to Colombo, met with North Western Chief Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara, TNA MP, M.A. Sumanthiran, Government MP Rajiva Wijesinha and well known diplomatic analyst Dr. Dayan Jayatilake. The meeting took place at the Norwegian Embassy, and those present were the Canadian, South African and Australian High Commissioners. Mr. Jayasekara tried to drive home the point at this meeting that the international community should constructively engage with President Mahinda Rajapaksa instead of trying to alienate him.
“President Rajapaksa enjoys public support. Your action will not help resolve problems here. It is better to engage with him. If you isolate him, the problems cannot be solved,” he said.
Mr. Sumanthiran reportedly said his party had lost its trust in the government in this respect. Also, he highlighted that his party was ready to co-operate politically with the President if he acted properly in dealing with the national question.
Mr. Jayasekara and Mr. Sumanthiran exchanged views on the powers of the Provincial Council, especially with reference to the powers of the governor. The TNA has complained that its Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran could not discharge his functions due to the interference by Northern Governor G. H. Chandrasiri, and ex-military officer. Mr. Jayasekara defended the government in this case, and said it was a common phenomenon even in the south.
“Today, powers have not been devolved to the provinces in the proper sense. This is the problem. It is a problem of power devolution,” he said.
The rift between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and its allies in the government has widened further this time. Only the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) has decided to conduct its May Day rally with the SLFP in Campbell Park this time. The three leftist allies- Communist Party, Lanka Samasamaja Party and the Democratic Left Front- will have a separate rally.
However, the MEP led by Water Supply and Drainage Board Minister Dinesh Gunawardane decided to join hands with the SLFP .
MEP seeks govt jobs for Grade 8 qualifiers
In his May Day demands, he is going to ask the government to do away with the G.C.E. Ordinary Level Examination as the minimum qualification required by those to be recruited to the lowest cadre of employees at state institutions. Instead, the MEP wants a Grade 8 pass as the minimum basic qualification to be considered for such categories of employment such as labourers.
“There are many school dropouts. They need to be looked after. Therefore, Grade 8 qualifiers should be given jobs to do minor work at state bodies such as boards and corporations,” he said.
Absorption of casual workers to the permanent cadre, benefits of the economic growth to workers and welfare rights of migrant workers are among the other demands of the MEP on May Day.
Leftist allies renew calls for abolition of executive presidency
Three leftist allies-the CP, LSSP and DLF- will renew its call for the abolition of executive presidency once again. Besides, these parties say the basic salaries of public servants have not been increased for the last seven years. Instead, the government has granted only allowances during the period. Normally, public servants are entitled to various other payments such as overtime payment, pensions and incentives calculated in proportion to their basic salaries.
Therefore, without a hike in basic salaries, there is no increase in such extra payments. Public servants have suffered this predicament for the last seven years, and the leftist allies have put forward this demand at least on May Day marked for workers’ rights.
JVP to appear for Sanga and Mahela in Parliament
JVP has got hold of audited accounts of Sri Lanka Cricket. A lot of corruption and frauds are highlighted in them. Party leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MPs Sunil Handunnetti and Vijitha Herath discussed that they should raise it in Parliament. Also, they are going to voice for players subjected to harassment by politicians and bureaucrats. Bureaucracy and political interference have destroyed cricket, they said.