Saturday, September 26, 2009

New tactics of Sri Lankan legislators to undermine freedom of expression for the MPs

(September 26, Colombo - Lanka Polity) In Sri Lanka's deformed democracy, the honorable Members of Parliament are now suspected of deliberately boycotting parliament to disrupt each others freedom of expression.

On last Tuesday, the opposition United National Party (UNP) MP Ravi Karunanayaka showed at the adjournment debate that the house has no quorum. As a result, the Deputy Minister of Highways W.B. Ekanayaka lost the opportunity to deliver the government answer of the debate on a major road development project the opposition accused of having massive mismanagement and misappropriation.

Later the Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardhana said the opposition move was a breach of an agreement not to raise the quorum issues at the adjournment. Chief Opposition Whip Joseph Michael Perera apologized.

However, on Friday, the government Minister of Transport Services Lasantha Alagiyawanna blocked UNP MP Ravi Karunanayaka proposing the adjournment debate by showing there was no quorum in the house. The Deputy Speaker Piyankara Jayaratna failed to summon the quorum and the meeting was adjourned prematurely. Only 17 members had responded to the quorum bell while Alagiyawanna, who initially pointed out the absence of the required number of members, too, left the Chamber. Deputy Foreign Minister Hussain Bhaila, the only government representative present in Parliament said that they were still four short of the stipulated number.

There are 225 MPs in the parliament. The minimum number needed to maintain the quorum is 20. Most of the MPs do not attend the parliamentary meetings regularly although they enjoy lavish perks with public money. On the days the parliamentary meetings are held, the roads in Colombo city are closed time to time to provide safe passage to the MPs to come and go. A massive sum of public money is spent for each parliamentary meeting.

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