By Skandha Gunasekara
The Parliamentary debate on the bond report will be held on 20-21 February, the Party leaders had decided yesterday.
Joint Opposition Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardana, speaking to the Daily FT soon after the Party leaders’ meeting concluded, said the Government had scheduled the debate for the latter half of February, despite calls from the Opposition to hold the debate before the upcoming Local Government elections.
“We urged the Government to have the bond report debate before 10 February. However, the view of the Government was different. They insisted that as there were no scheduled Parliament Sittings before the elections, the debate would be held on the 20 and 21 of February,” Gunawardana said.
Gunawardana noted that it would be a two-day adjournment debate, listed to be moved by the JVP and the Joint Opposition.
Further, he said that Opposition had brought up the issue of the missing bond report documents at the Party Leaders meeting. “We demanded that the Speaker obtain the missing bond report documents as soon as possible. Parliament and the MPs must have the entire bond report if we are to have a debate on it,” he said.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had informed the Party leaders that he expects to receive the remaining bond report documents within the next week.
Earlier in the day, Speaker Jayasuriya making an announcement had told Parliament that the Presidential Secretariat had notified him that several annexures of the bond report had been withheld.
The bond report was tabled in Parliament on 23 January.
Parliament will next meet on 19 February.
Ravi K raises privileges issue in Parliament
UNP MP and former Finance and Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s request to raise a privileges issue in Parliament based on the recent report of the Bond Commission was scuttled yesterday.
Despite his sturdy attempts, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, deviating from Parliament traditions, held back Karunanayake’s right to make a personal statement on an issue, which took place outside Parliament.
However, unhappy with the Speaker’s decision, Karunanayake demanded to raise his privilege issue in the House. “Under section 19 of the Standing Orders and the Privileges Act, I gave you a document. Subsequently, you held that it does not fall within both. But I don’t understand as to how when the privileges are impacted as to how this Parliament does not provide an opportunity to explain that,” he said.
“I have been very clearly emphatically mentioning that I will be making a statement today and on that basis, it was known for what the reason is. And I have given a detailed statement to you. So, I am lost for an answer. After 24 years in Parliament I see an absolute case of injustice knitted out. On the preliminary basis I must be told as to why not and the answer given was flimsy. I am ready to read out the statement and you could give me the opportunity to go forward,” Karunanayake added, highlighting the allocation given to a junior MP who was allowed to express his privilege in Parliament recently.
According to the Speaker, Karunanayake’s request will not fall within either for the day but could be given an opportunity at a later date. “I have explained this before. I kindly and respectfully urge you to accept the decision. Today you can’t talk about the bond in the Parliament. You should be able to make that speech during the Bond Commission Report debate,” held Speaker Jayasuriya.
Parliament raps President’s Secretary for missing pages of bond report
Opposition lawmakers yesterday criticised the irresponsible conduct of Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka Austin Fernando for submitting a part of the ‘Report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate, Inquire and Report on the Issuance of Treasury Bonds during the period from 1st February 2015 to 31st March 2016’, and holding back a part for legal and binding purposes.
Demanding the immediate presence of the Secretary to the President, the lawmakers rejected the possibility of accepting the part of the report tabled in the Parliament on 23 January. UPFA Joint Opposition MP Bandula Gunawardena, highlighting a recent statement of President Maithripala Sirisena, stated that there were over 6,000 pages in the report the Commission submitted on completing their task.
“President has held that the Bond Commission report contained over 6,000 pages and what we received here in Parliament is less than that. The Parliament was tabled with a part of the report as per the statement of the President. We would request you to discuss with the President and provide us the entire report,” Gunawardena said.
Agreeing with the JO, Chief Opposition Whip(JVP) Anura Dissanayake criticised the irresponsible actions of the Secretary to the President while proposing that Speaker Karu Jayasuriya summon him before the Party leaders.
“The Speaker held that all what was received by the Secretary to the President was tabled in the Parliament. Now we see that there are many other things remaining. On Tuesday it was held that the Secretary to the President should be immediately summoned to the Parliament in case lawmakers find discrepancies pertaining to the documents tabled and for misleading the Parliament. Informing the Speaker that there is another part of the report, he has failed in his duty. We want him to be in the Party leaders’ meeting so that we all could question him. He has sent a part of the report confirming that it is the full report and later saying that it is a part of it. This is not the expected conduct of responsible state officers,” said Dissanayake.
However, Higher Education and Highways Minister and Parliament Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella challenged the Opposition lawmakers that unless they accept the report tabled in Parliament on 23 January, no debate can be allowed. “We should accept the report the President submitted to the Parliament. There cannot be any debates if there are issues with the number of pages. You can’t have the cake and eat the cake,” said Kiriella.
Speaker Jayasuriya, reading out a letter he received from the Secretary to the President yesterday morning to confirm that a part of the report is still held at the Presidential Secretariat said: “I have contacted the Secretary to the President. He has written to me confirming that 26 English copies of the Bond Commission report were submitted to be presented to the Speaker. There are many other documents, which were tabled before the commission and it is necessary to keep them safe. Currently the former Secretary of the Commission is working with the Government Printer to bind these documents came in bundles and box files. Three sets of the said documents will be completed soon and will be given priority to the law enforcement agencies.” (AH)