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4 December 2013 07:11 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The question time began on a parliamentary day last week with Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa flexing his muscles on the MPs who tried to take a lot of time during the period allotted for questions and oral answers.

On one occasion, the Speaker repeatedly ordered United National Party (UNP) MP Sajith Premadasa to raise his supplementary questions in a simple and short form so that the allotted time could be used productively by other member as well.  

According to parliamentary traditions, once the answer is given to a question listed on the Order Paper, the MP concerned is allowed to raise three supplementary questions.  They should be relevant to the matters arising from the answer given to the main question.   The Speaker always advises the members to be specific in raising such questions.  Otherwise, the ministers   find it difficult to understand them, and it often results in irrelevant replies at the end.





Sajith at the receiving end
MP Premadasa has become a constant receiver of the Speaker’s warnings and advises to shorten and simplify his supplementary questions, for the convenience in understanding them by subject ministers who should reply them.  

After Mr. Premadasa’s question on this particular day, UNP MP Ms. Rosy Senanayake raised a question which was followed by three supplementary questions asked in the ‘fashionable’ way unique to her. Once she finished, another question had been listed on the same Order Paper for Mr. Premadasa to ask.





Speaker sees difference between Sajith and Rosy
When directing supplementary questions this time, Mr. Premadasa appeared disturbed probably with the assumption or conclusion that the Speaker favoured Ms. Senanayake without trying to control her manner of raising questions.

Therefore, he remarked to the Speaker, “I hope you will be flexible to me as you were to Ms. Senanayake a little while ago.”   

The Speaker, in lighter vein, responded, “There is a difference between the two of you.”   In the same spirit and showing a good sense of humour, Mr. Premadasa shot back saying, “You seem to have noticed that difference. I know it well.”

Having listened to such cross talk, Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardane, who was on his feet to answer the question burst into laughter with his face covered with the cardboard file containing the documents bearing answers for the questions being asked.





 Johnston says govt. has announced good prices for paddy
A similar situation arose during the question time on another day in the House last week. It was when Mr. Premadasa questioned about the farmers’ plight of not being unable to get a better price for their produce during the Maha season.

Despite assertions by Mr. Premadasa that farmers are in the lurch without a reasonable price for their paddy, Internal Trade and Co-operative Minister Johnston Fernando said the government had officially announced Rs. 32 for a kilo of Nadu variety and Rs.35 for Samba variety to be paid.

“You do not know prices prevailing at local markets. Since we declared these stable prices, private traders were also compelled to increase their purchasing prices. Some of them even purchase Nadu rice at Rs.34 a kilo. If you have any amount, please bring it to us for that price,” he said.






Speaker has a stock of paddy to sell to Johnston
Disputing this figure, Mr. Premadasa persisted with his argument saying that it was the common predicament even for farmers in the Hambantota district. Speaker Rajapaksa intervened at that point, and in an apparent note of approval of Mr. Premadasa’s position, said, “I have a stock of paddy to be sold at that price to you.”
Delighted by the Speaker’s stand, the UNP MP said, “You heard what he said in approval of my stand, didn’t you?

Minister Fernando then said,” I heard it well.  Only the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced a stable price for paddy.  During the UNP time, a paddy kilo fetched only Rs.15. It has been doubled now. Also, the Paddy Marketing Board was closed at that time. Its warehouses were sold off. Now, we have revamped it.”Underscored in such talks coupled with political humour is the need to strengthen the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) further enabling it to influence the market forces for the benefit of both paddy farmers and rice consumers.  It can be done by increasing the PMB’s stake both in purchasing and milling paddy to be sold at reasonable prices.  In such an eventuality, private traders will be compelled to fall in line with the price rates of PMB benefitting all concerned.






Government donates rice to World Food Programme
Sri Lanka has achieved self-sufficiency in rice production. The available stocks are enough to feed the entire country for more than one year. Against this backdrop, the authorities have paid attention to produce more and more rice-flour based products such as cookies. Also, there have been attempts, successful in certain cases, to bake bread out of fine rice flour.

In fact, the government donated a stock of rice to the World Food Programme (WFP) to be distributed among famine-hit people in Somalia and Ethiopia in February as announced by Deputy Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama.

The budget, being debated in the House these days, has laid greater emphasis on the agriculture sector development. President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced in his budget speech on November 21 that the government would donate a further 50,000 metric tons of rice to the WFP. Also, he said the government requested the WFP to include Sri Lanka into the list of countries supplying rice to the WFP.






Bandula’s concern for children orphaned after double murder
The November 16 senseless killing of police constable Liyanarachchige Sunil (33) and his wife Appuhamilage Apsara Samanmali (29) sent shock waves throughout the country. The two children of the slain couple are now orphaned, and the Police Department is taking care of their education.
IGP N. K. Ilangakoon contacted Education Minister Bandula Gunwardane to discuss the future of the couple’s school-going eldest son. Concerned by the plight of this child, Minister Gunawardane sent a special order to the authorities of Matara Rahula College to admit him to the school with immediate effect.






Sampanthan tells how powerful deities are
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) usually appeals to the international community for help over issues concerning them. In fact, TNA leader R. Sampanthan, after being disturbed by government MP A.H.M. Azwer, appealed to the international community to see how minority members are not allowed to speak in parliament to present their cases.  He made that appeal on Thursday. However, he made another appeal to divinity last Tuesday over the demolition of three Hindu temples in the High Security Zones allegedly by the military. “You have demolished three temples. You must remember that our deities are very powerful. Please be careful,” he said.
Deputy Minister Sarath Weerasekara, who is the former head of the Civil Defence Force, was quick to remind Mr. Sampanthan of the fact that the military built so many Hindu temples.






Merry-making after Sabaragamuwa PC budget debate
Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Minister Srilal Wickramaratne attended the session last week after being ill for more than one and a half years.  He fell ill last year, and was confined to a wheelchair. Yet, he received nomination for the last election on a directive by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  For the finally rally attended by the President in view of the 2012 provincial council election, he could not attend due to his illness.  The President, however, sent a special ambulance to bring him to the rally.  At the session, he referred to President Rajapaksa’s concern about his illness with great gratitude.
After the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council budget debate, a dinner party was arranged for all members at the official residence of Chief Minister Mahipala Herath.  UNP member Hasitha Muhandiram widely known as Sarpaya entertained the host and the guests alike by singing several songs. There was a lot of merrymaking at the event.






 Kesbewa UC ruling party  members show tacit disapproval
Dissension within the government ranks   at local authorities’ level surfaced once again as a section of the ruling party members of Kesbewa Urban Council acted to defeat the annual budget of the council. Disappointed by administrative and financial irregularities at the council, two Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) members Lalith Rohana and Kalpa Thusantha along with Deputy Mayor Hemal Dharmapriya and Sri Lanka Freedom Party member Watareka abstained from voting leaving only six votes in hand.  It made way for the opposition- six from the UNP and one from the JVP- to vote out the Kesbewa UC budget on Tuesday by a narrow margin of one vote.
The political higher-ups in the area exerted pressure on the two SLFP members not to act for the defeat of the budget. But, they did not give in.
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