Allow accused MPs to travel abroad, Dinesh appeals to the Speaker

Thursday, 1 December 2016 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Joint Opposition Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday informed Parliament that passports of six opposition parliamentarians have been impounded.

He claimed that all six MPs should be free to travel as they are members of International Parliamentary Union. According to Gunawardana, passports of some former MPs have been impounded as well.dfh

In support of Gunawardana, Deputy Speaker Tilanga Sumathipala said that he nor the Speaker approve of the decision to impound the passports of parliamentarians. However, he highlighted that the practice is followed to ensure MPs report to courts when cases against them are called up. Despite this, he promised to raise the issue. 

 “The Speaker will take up the matter with the Attorney General (AG) and will see to it that MP rights are restored,” he said.

MP Keheliya Rambukwella reminded the Deputy Speaker that Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has already promised to summon the Attorney General to find a solution. 

“When the magistrates are ready to release the passports, it is the Attorney General Department that opposes it,” he claimed. 

In response, Leader of the House Highways and Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella reminded members that the law of the land is applicable to all citizens, regardless of their position. 

“We cannot oppose a decision made by courts. There is no separate law for MPs. There is only one law for all. It is only under the previous regime there were differences in applicability of law with regard to people and politicians. Now there is no such thing,” Kiriella said.

State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe also defended the position of the Attorney General, saying that if MPs were free to travel abroad they would attempt to steal wealth from the country.

“Under the ‘good governance’ system, these matters come under the purview of the judiciary,” he charged.


Cabinet nods to increase MP allowances 


The Cabinet of Ministers has approved the much debated proposal to grant a separate allowance for Parliamentarians to maintain their offices. The Cabinet paper presented by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka also sought to increase Parliament attendance allowance from Rs. 500 to Rs. 2500. 

The Minister, who is also the co-spokesperson for the Cabinet, said the proposal will now have to be passed in Parliament before implementation. Karunathilaka defended the hike in attendance allowance, saying it was long overdue. 

“It has remained at Rs. 500 for a long time. How many times have Government servants’ salaries increased since then? This is a fair increase,” he said. 

The Minister said that the Cabinet of Ministers approved to grant Rs. 100,000 as allowance for political offices. Answering a question raised by a journalist, the minister said there was no debate in approving the proposal. 

“We have taken into account all the expenses an MP has to incur in maintaining an office, and decided on the allowance. Now the Joint Opposition has said they are opposed to it, if so they can opt to not take it,” he said.

The minister highlighted that even when permits were issued for parliamentarians under the new scheme, the option to not obtain it was given, but all members except for two in the Government have availed themselves of the facility. 

“We can see how they behave here,” Karunathilaka said.   


P’ment to move for Castro today

Condolence messages on Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s death to be moved during the adjournment debate in Parliament today. A decision to this effect was made at the Party Leaders’ meeting yesterday.