In a meticulously prepared speech leaving no room for opposition to use fresh ammunition, the President delivered broad implications for his new government’s policy revealing his vision of democracy and hope for the future, while the new leader of opposition Sajith Premadasa, devoid of all symbolic imagery, or his typical rhetoric Sinhala speeches, amazed the House with a short, but brilliant congratulatory speech, acknowledging the role of new Speaker. President said, “The basis of the success of a democratic state is its Constitution. Our Constitution, which has been amended 19 times from its inception in 1978, has many ambiguities and uncertainties, presently resulting in confusion”. Placing his remarkable Policy before new Parliament he said, “I will not hesitate to enforce the law against those who are involved in fraud and corrupt actions, irrespective of the status of any such perpetrators;” We believe the perpetrators would include men in his own camp as well. However, eliminating 19A and evolving a new Constitution seems his first priority.
"Their internal bickering has caused tremendous embarrassment to the entire Buddhist community. The proposed 20A, we believe would carry a clause banning clergy from engaging in politics altogether"
In the morning session, congratulating the new Speaker, Sajith said, “…you have contributed tremendously to the political activities of our country and your political contribution is well recognised. Throughout your political career you have acted with dignity, integrity and honour and we salute you. You have been a true patriot, you are not a pseudo nationalist, and neither are you a modern day racist. So, we on this side of the political isle, are extremely honoured to have you as our Speaker…,” Quoting Disraeli and Lincoln in the course, he further said, “Democratically-elected parliament is the epitome of a functioning democracy. It is incumbent upon all of us to protect and promote a vibrant and sound democracy. As the custodian of this August Assembly, you are ethically and morally obliged to uphold the great principles of democracy and the legitimacy of this institution.”
President’s statement on lands, that, “We will provide them legitimate deeds through a swift process. I assure you that without a proper alternative we will not evict people from their ancestral homes or farmlands,” received accolades from former CM Northern Province, C. V. Vigneswaran during parliamentary debate on it held the next day. The Supreme Court Judge [retired] and the newly-elected Jaffna district MP earlier attributed the SLPPs overwhelming victory to the unity among people of the South: was it an indirect insinuation on apparent disunity among his community?
Duty-free vehicle permits
Duty-free vehicle permit for parliamentarians was systematically increased during the last parliament that members received permits with tax exemptions up to the tune of Rs. 33 million. The ‘piece of paper’ that deprived the customs of collecting its due from the affluent buyer of a luxury vehicle the sum stated on it, fetched a handsome Rs. 25 to 28 million in the open market. The five-year ban period for transfer too was withdrawn encouraging the scrupulous “people’s representatives” to cheat the state. An appointed member of the UNP during the tail end of its term, who attended Diyawanna sittings only for six days, collected his permit with the privilege to sell it signifying the sad state of affairs the nation had fallen into. One of the SLPP’s new-comers, Madura Vithana, the Former Kotte Mayor who chose to visit the parliament by boat made an announcement well in advance of August 5, he would forego the duty-free vehicle permit. Vithanage told the media that his boat-ride was an attempt to popularize water-way transport as a solution to city’s traffic congestion.
"An SLPP’s new-comer, Madura Vithana, who chose to visit the parliament by boat made an announcement well in advance of August 5, he would forego the duty-free vehicle permit "
In spite of Vithana’s altruistic gesture, MPs of both sides would welcome the permit in an attempt to reimburse part of expenses incurred by them in campaigning by selling the ‘piece of paper’. As Vithana rightly confessed that it would be unfair to receive such privilege at a time the nation was struggling to meet essential services—any undue pressure on the new leadership to continue with destructive system leading to deterioration of financial discipline should be opposed by the people.
Buddhist monks fight for national list slot
Ven. Athureliya Rathana, a UNP national list MP in the last parliament and Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara along with several other monks and laymen invigorated the Ape Jana Bala Paksaya contested island-wide polling over 67,000 votes, assuring a national list seat. Ven. Wedinigama Wimalatissa who was appointed the General Secretary of the party exercised his right as the authority to name their representative for the position, wrote to the elections commission naming himself to that post. Their internal bickering has caused tremendous embarrassment to the entire Buddhist community. The proposed 20A, we believe would carry a clause banning clergy from engaging in politics altogether.
It is heartening news that the new government at its first cabinet meeting held last Wednesday, decided to retain many positive elements like limiting number of presidential terms to two and the reduced five-year term to remain in scrapping the controversial 19A, which the architect of the constitutional amendment himself embarrassingly announced as flowed. While Sasikala Raviraj, former MP and lawyer Nadaraja Raviraj’s wife who failed to get elected, fought for preference votes with M.A. Sumanthiran, based on unsubstantiated allegations, which compelled authorities to summon STF to provide security to the TNA’s virtual leader; in Jaffna district’s Udupiddy seat, Sri Lanka Freedom Party [SLFP], represented by Angajan Ramanathan, earned 6214 votes, a percentage of 27 and achieved the first position, helping him claim a slot allocated to SLFP. SLPP also appointed Dr. Suren Raghavan [SLFP] ignoring the party nominee Prof. Lakshman Piyadasa, a smart move by them to win the hearts of Jaffna voter.
"It is heartening news that the new govt at its first cabinet meeting decided to retain many positive elements like limiting number of presidential terms to two"
Thamil Makkal Thesiya Koottani [TMTK], a pro-Prabhakaran party led by former CM and SC Judge CV Wigneswaran, Sivajilingam a former senior member of the TELO and Ananthi Sasitharan, received only 4457 votes, or 19.43%. The SLFP scored second place in three more electorates out of the eleven in the district.
Indifference to the positive attitudes expressed by Jaffna’s Tamil voter, our newly-appointed State Minister of Provincial Councils and Local government rushed to highlight his opposition to the 13th Amendment by declaring, “We will not devolve police and land powers to the provincial councils,” something quite unwarranted at this stage.
The beleaguered UNP has decided that Ranil Wickremesinghe should continue to lead the party until the PC elections are held next year; the Working Committee should have appointed a young, balanced-minded leader like Ruwan Wijewardene who can talk to the breakaway group and successfully unite the Grand Old Party.