Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday in Parliament asked the Government to look into the possibility of accommodating further Amendments to the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) Act.
He made this observation when it was pointed out that several Amendments proposed by the JVP and TNA had been missed at the Committee Stage of the Bill owing to the pandemonium prevailed at that time.
However, the Speaker reassured that there is no question on the validity of the Act as it has gone through all the required channels.
Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that he would consult Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera on the possibility of bringing further Amendments to the Act by way of an Amendment Bill before the presentation of the annual Budget.
Chief Opposition Whip and JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake rising to a Point of Order stated one out of the three Amendments proposed by JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake and the Amendments proposed by TNA MP M A Sumanthiran had been missed during the Committee Stage of the Bill.
“Those were agreed and accepted by the Government. However, due to the unruly conduct of a handful of MPs who charged in to the well of the House and created a ruckus those had been missed. As we gave our support to the Bill subject to these Amendments, the Government has a moral obligation to include these Amendments,” he said.
MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena joining in the argument stated the passage of the Bill was against the Standing Orders of Parliament. Referring to a Clause of the Act which refers to an international convention on missing persons, the MP also demanded to know whether Sri Lanka has ratified it while observing that the ratification on such Convention should be approved
by the Cabinet and Parliament.
“Therefore the content of this Act violates the Constitution as well,” he said.
MP Wimal Weerawansa said the Bill was passed in an arbitrary manner despite the fact that he was asking for a division.
“The Speaker might not have heard it because of the shouting. The Government should reintroduce this Bill in the House. The OMP is a factory which would create fake charges
against the war heroes. It is not to find the truth of those gone missing in 1988-89 period. This office is against the war heroes,” he said.
Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella at this point asked why the JO failed to petition against the Bill at the Supreme Court if they had those concerns. “Many were eagerly waiting for a robust debate on the Bill.
However, the JO sabotaged the debate. If they had a real concern they could have gone back to their seats and take part in the debate. Now you are too late. You cannot reverse the process now. I must also recall former Minister Richard Pathirana passed 13 Bills on a single day at one time in
the past. So why question this move?,” he asked.
JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake requested the Government to bring in the Amendments again since the Government still has time as the establishment of the OMP would take about three more months. The Speaker also stated that it was a fair request and Minister Kiriella agreed to consult the relevant minister in that regard.
MP Keheliya Rambukwella said the pandemonium prevailed at the House at the time of the passage of the Bill was not an excuse for the Speaker to deviate from the standard procedure of Parliament.
Speaker Jayasuriya speaking at this point stressed that he followed his conscience and did what he thought was correct. “Parliament spends about Rs.4.5 million per day and I cannot waste public money and let Parliament go astray. I acted impartially. To be fair on the JO, we had given half of the time allocated to the UPFA to them. Giving priority for Government business is a main feature of any democracy. The Government decided that this Bill was urgent and I acted as of the majority opinion. I appealed the JO MPs not to charge in to the well of the House. It is upto the House to decide who is right and who is wrong,” he concluded.
MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Chandrasiri Gajadeera also argued that their speeches were not allowed by the chair as the MPs were standing in the well, adding that it was unfair by them as MPs Bimal Rathnayake and Sumanthiran spoke despite the House was in disarray.
The Speaker expressed his regret for all the members who were listed to speak in the debate, but added he could not take that responsibility.