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Parliament

TNA raises issue over President’s expenditure head

TNA MP M.A Sumanthiran queried how Parliament can approve the President’s expenditure head when the President is trying to send a separate Opposition delegation to Geneva to represent himself when a government delegation is also attending the UNHRC sessions.

He noted that this is an important head of expenditure that has been proposed in this budget. “If one scans the figures that have been proposed one can see that the president’s office has the lion’s share only second to the elections secretariat. It’s almost Rs. 2,933 million more than the allocation for parliament itself which is Rs. 2,779 million.”

“I want to raise a few issues that has already been raised by the speaker who opened the debate today with regard to the disputes that exist between several personalities whom these expenditures have been proposed. All of these important offices seem to be at loggerheads and the smooth functioning has been disrupted thanks to the plot on October 26 last year.We are still reeling after that onslaught and all of these institutions are at each others throats. One important issue is the present sessions that are going on at the UNHRC and the announcement by the president that he intends sending three members to represent him and move away from the commitment Sri Lanka has given twice before with his blessings and then counter to that the Prime Minister’s and foreign ministers offices that they would co-sponsor the new resolution at the UNHRC sessions this year,” he said.

Sumanthiran demanded to know what the real situation is from the President whether he is sending another delegation and what legal authority such a delegation would have.Whether members of the Opposition can go to represent the country at sessions in Geneva.

Minister Lakshman Kiriella asked MP Mahinda Samarasinghe if such a delegation was in fact to be sent to Geneva. “As a parliament we must know at the start of the debate if such a separate delegation is to be sent to Geneva?”

In response MP Mahinda Samarasinghe noted that the President had authorised him to make a statement in parliament regarding this matter in response to the issue raised by MP Sumanthiran.

Sumanthiran said this shows the leader of the house does not know if the President is sending a separate delegation. Raising an issue of propriety he asked whether parliament can authorise expenditure for the President’s Office if the President intends to send a separate delegation.

“Can Opposition members represent the government when a Foreign Ministry delegation is going? It would be proper for the Foreign Minister to go for the sessions to represent the government. As such can another delegation represent the present at the UNHRC and can the parliament authorise such expenditure. It would not be proper,” he said.

The President is the head of the executive. He’s the chair of the Cabinet and the government. As such can another member of his own party hold the post of the Leader of the Opposition? “Two members of the same party where one is the head of the government and the other is the head of the opposition. Now we are seeing how it is working. The head of the is now trying to send members of the opposition to represent him. This shows the ridiculous state of affairs the parliament has been brought into. He also wishes to send the governor of the Northern province and he is sending me letters saying the he is going to Geneva to represent the people of the Northern Province. How can the Governor represent the people? The Governor is the agent of the president. The province have various elected representatives at various levels and we will represent the people. He is only an agent of the president.”

He noted that the Governor has also proposed to go to India on an official trip to meet the refugees there. “Is he authorised to do that? He proposes to go there with a delegation and he has suggested persons who should go with him and that list strangely includes a sitting member of the judiciary. This is the ridiculous state the executive has come to.”

Sumanthiran said, “This is being extended and we are also discussing the head of expenditure to the Supreme Court. Last month when we had a debate members of both sides said the Supreme Court is independent now after the cases Last November. They said we don’t need independent judges and we don’t need foreign judges as our judiciary has proved it is independent. I intervened and said that may be so when it comes to two political parties in the country. But when it comes to the issue of the state and an armed rebel group. The local judiciary will not be independent and this has been proved by certain court proceedings that happened last week. I refer to the case of former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda going to the Supreme Court to prevent his arrest. This has become a joke where people run to the Supreme Court. They don’t go to the Magistrate’s Court where you can ask for anticipatory bail. This is a new trend where you go to the apex court of the country and prevent arrest. He was named as a suspect for having knowledge of the abduction and killing of 11 youths. They had nothing to do with the LTTE. Even so, because the suspects were members of the Navy who were running an extortion racket and the Commander of the Navy himself knew about it as he himself made the complaint. However, a position was taken up in the Supreme Court that he was a war hero and that he should not be arrested. If a person had been a commander of an armed force during the war, does that prevent him from being arrested? I did not see that happening in the case of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.”

He pointed out that these are Tamil youths and they were done to their death in a secret detention site at the Trincomalee Naval Headquarters. Several more faced the same fate there. “Here is a case of very young men and their parents have been crying out for justice and after ten years and finally when it was moving, the state apparatus even the Supreme Court has acted in a partisan manner. Karannagoda’s lawyer has publicly stated that the AG and Sol Gen go to the President every day asking for promotions. The previous day he wanted Karannagoda arrested but when this was stated he agreed that Karannagoda need not be arrested. This shows the partisan manner in which the judiciary and the AG’s department all function when it comes to matters like this. If this is the case with Tamil Speaking youths how much more partisanship will it be when it involves the LTTE itself,” he said, adding that that is why they insist that the undertakings given to the UNHRC must be fulfilled and implemented.


Political influence has hampered Bribery Commission - JVP

President Maithripala Sirisena owes an explanation to the nation and to Parliament as to why he had removed the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption’s (CIABOC) Director General, JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the committee stage of the budget debate under the expenditure heads of office of the President, Prime Minister and the Defence Ministry, the JVP leader said that an explanation was long overdue from the President on his removal of the CIABOC Director General.

“After 2015, the Voice Against Corruption organisation made a large number of complaints before the CIABOC. Among those accused are the wife of former President, his sons and many cronies. After 2015, there were complaints against the incumbent Prime Minister and several other ministers. The bribery commission has completed many investigations but does not institute legal actions against politicians. Instead it would file cases only against minor staff, constables, Grama Niladhari Officers and technical officers. We hope that the Government would respond and inform us as to how and why the commission only files cases against sprats while the sharks are still at large. The Government owes us an explanation. The President owes us an explanation. He is still to tell this House on what grounds he removed a Director General of the Commission and appointed another,” he said.

“We have empowered the Bribery Commission and enacted laws to strengthen it hoping that such actions would help fight corruption and bribery. We passed funds for the functioning of the Commission with the same hope. However, today the Commission is lying idle owing to political influence.The President should rectify this error,” Dissanayake added.


 

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