- PM says he was not consulted over Kariyawasam’s appointment
- Says Opp. should have discussed matter at Party Leaders’ meeting
- Kiriella says Parliament receives assistance from various countries
- Opp. Whip says independence of Parliament comprised by appointing adviser paid by foreign government
By Chandani Kirinde
Government and Opposition lawmakers locked horns yesterday over the appointment of Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Washington Prasad Kariyawasam as an adviser to Parliament. The disagreement came to the fore after Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella gave a lengthy explanation regarding Kariyawasam’s appointment in response to a query by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa how a parliamentary post has been given to a person whose salary is paid by the US Government.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he was not consulted when the appointment in question was made and that appointment could have been questioned at the Party Leaders’ meeting. “I was not consulted when Kariyawasam was hired as a consultant. You could raise this in the Party Leaders’ meeting and take it up with the Speaker next week,” said the Prime Minister.
He said that Opposition lawmakers were questioning whether Kariyawasam is an American agent when he was appointed as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US by the former Government.
“It is that Government which signed the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA). We only renewed the same. The ACSA was harmless and beneficial to the country when you signed it but not so when we renew it? What is this double standard? You have American citizens and agents among you. Let’s hold a debate on this. It is you who handed over the Foreign Service in to the US. Now you are shouting against us,” he said. The Prime Minister said that Parliament receives assistance from various countries and institutes and they invite parliamentarians and staff members for foreign tours. “We as parliamentarians have gone abroad on the invitations and grants from China, the US and the EU. Now you can make a choice if you are against accepting the help and assistance from foreign countries, whether you would go abroad again or not,” the Prime Minister said.
Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that the Parliament has links with UNDP, USAID, Westminster Foundation, International Republican Institute, Friedrich Neumann Foundation, and National Democratic Institute.
“There are two consultants attached to the DAI on behalf of USAID program assisting Parliament. They are G. Hettiarachchi who was former additional secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and former Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prasad Kariyawasam. Former Foreign Secretary Dr. Karunathilaka Amunugama was originally appointed for the post now held by Kariyawasam. Days before accepting the post Dr. Amunugama passed away and the vacancy was filled by Kariyawasam. The allegations by the opposition are baseless. Not only have the foreign countries assisted by paying the salaries of consultants of Parliament but also in many other ways. Parliamentarians also have obtained funds from foreign countries for the tours of MPs to India, China, the US, the UK, Germany, Norway, EU, Iran, Canada, Oman and Switzerland,” he said. Chief Opposition Whip Dinesh Gunawardena said that the independence of Parliament has been comprised by appointing a person as adviser who is paid by a foreign government. “The Treasury gives enough funds to Parliament to appoint advisers and consultants. There are also competent officials who can handle the work of Parliament. How was such a questionable appointment made?” Gunawardena queried. Mahinda Rajapaksa said they are not against appointing Kariyawasam to the post but said that obtaining the services from persons paid for by a foreign country would amount to betrayal of supremacy of Parliament.