- Opposition slams Govt. parliamentarians for failing to show up
- Say undermining role of P’ment, disappointing constituents
By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
Opposition lawmakers yesterday criticised the absence of their Government counterparts in Parliament to respond to questions, forcing House Leader Lakshman Kiriella to request the Speaker to postpone the session.
With questions going unanswered, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Bimal Rathnayake blamed the Government, for degrading the Parliament and disappointing public expectations from a representative democracy.
“This is a dark day for the Sri Lanka Parliament. None of the Ministers was present in the Parliament today to reply to the questions. So, what is the purpose of holding Parliament? This Parliament will expire in a few months, and it is unfair for the lawmakers to have their questions unanswered. This clearly violates the rights of lawmakers,” said Rathnayake.
Explaining the effort an ordinary member would take to list a question in the Order Paper on behalf of his constituents, United National Party (UNP) MP S.M. Marikkar said: “It is the right of an ordinary lawmaker who is not a Minster to ask a question in Parliament. It takes at least six months to be included in the Order Paper, once a question is given. For example, a Private Member Motion takes at least two years. I have submitted a Private Member Motion two years ago requesting to make the Dhamma School education mandatory on Sundays. This motion is yet to be taken up in Parliament. When questions go unanswered, it violates our rights. We have brought this to the attention of the Speaker, but no action was taken. If the Minster is unavailable to reply, the answer should be tabled in the Parliament.”
According to UNP lawmaker Chaminda Wijesiri, the Government officers should have acted prudently by sending the responses to the questions, enabling the Leader of the House to table in Parliament regardless of the presence of the Minster.
“The questions are asked from the Ministries, and the answers are prepared by Government officers there. It is the responsibility of the officers to have submitted the reply, enabling the Leader of the House to table the answers at least during the second round. The answers get delayed to lapses in the Ministries,” said MP Wijesiri.
Responding to the charges raised against the Government, Minister Kiriella held that the leader of the UNP, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has instructed his group of lawmakers to give priority to Parliament work, compared to any other matters, and not to skip responding to questions raised in the House.