By Shamindra Ferdinando
A furious Kurunegala District UNP MP Thushara Indunil Amarasena yesterday accused his party of not taking advantage of the much-hyped adjournment debate on Chinese funding in support of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 2015 re-election bid.
Amarasena expressed deep disappointment over the way, his party allowed the Joint Opposition (JO) to force the Chair to call off the debate last Thursday (July 19).
Amarasena said that he couldn’t believe that the UNP neglected its duty to ensure that the House had a quorum. Responding to another query, Amarasena alleged that President Maithripala Sirisena’s parliamentary group had not been supportive of the debate.
The UNP, SLFP parliamentary groups comprises 133 lawmakers. Amarasena said that the required quorum of 20 could have been ensured easily. The UNPer said that he was upset and felt no point in participating in the following day’s sittings.
“Although, adjournment debates are not taken seriously sometimes, all knew the importance of the one on Chinese funding. We called a special press conference at Sirikotha to announce the move against the former President. I felt ashamed being let down.”
UNP backbencher and Ratnapura District MP Hesha Vithanage, who chaired the sessions in the absence of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya called off the sittings when Gampaha District MP Indika Anuruddha pointed out lack of quorum.
However, Public Enterprise and Kandy City Development and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella told a gathering in Kandy that the Rajapaksas owed an explanation to the public as to why the former President, his eldest son, Namal and brother, Chamal skipped the adjournment debate on Chinese funding.
Kiriella said that the Rajapaksas should have responded to the allegations directed at them. But by 1 pm there hadn’t been anyone from the Joint Opposition in parliament on that day, Kiriella said, alleging that as they couldn’t either admit or deny accusations they skipped the debate.
Kiriella recalled how he faced the JVP’s challenge for a debate on his ministry sometimes ago. Kiriella was addressing a gathering at an event to disburse Rs 200 mn to entrepreneurs
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya wasn’t available. The Speaker is in Egypt on an official visit with a dozen MPs to improve tries with that country despite it being led by a military dictator. This move to improve relations with Egypt came following the recent visit to Colombo of Thai strongman Prime Minister Gen.Prayuth Chan-o-cha.
Gampaha District JO member Indika Anuruddha told The Island that the UNP and the SLFP were responsible for ensuring the quorm. Their failure couldn’t be blamed on the JO, Anuruddha said, pointing out the allegations in respect of Chinese funding had been denied by former President Rajapaksa, the Chinese Government (both the embassy here and the Foreign Ministry in Beijing) and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).
Anuruddha pointed out there were only nine MPs out of 225 at the time the debate was called off. “Obviously, the UNP lacked a strategy though some of its members talked as if they personally saw the transfer of funds.’ UNPer Amarasena acknowledged that the party should certainly inquire into the circumstances leading to last Thursday’s fiasco.
Amarasena said that the SLFP stand on the debate on Chinese funding wasn’t acceptable. The MP was responding to SLFP Vice President and spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe playing down the importance of last Thursday’s session.
The National Unity Government couldn’t afford to ignore such a vital issue, Amarasena said urging both the UNP and the SLFP to examine their stand on corruption allegations against the previous administration.
Amarasena said that some lawmakers seemed to have forgotten the UNP called for the debate following explosive New York Times exposure of China funding the previous administration. The MP said that he intended to raise the issue among the parliamentary group. Anuruddha admitted that members of parliament couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility in attending parliamentary sessions.