Speaker spends sleepless nights

Chamal Rajapaksa

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa is staying up all night these days reading books on parliamentary traditions to resolve the issue of who should lead the opposition in Parliament, sources said.

The Speaker is said to be laboriously poring over tomes of all that parliamentary stuff to see whether the erstwhile Erskine May can enlighten him on the affairs in Parliamentary Practice, and other tomes as well by M.N. Kaul and S.L. Shakdher. These books are considered the best authorities on parliamentary traditions.

Political analysts are stymied. Speaker Chamal can draw a blank everywhere.

The Speaker sought views of leaders of political parties in the Opposition as well as from independent members last month. Four leaders of Opposition political parties have told the Speaker that if it could be determined whether the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is in the opposition or in the government, it would then not be difficult to find a solution to the crisis regarding the opposition leader’s office.

This had been stated by Leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) Tissa Vitarana, General Secretary of the Communist Party (CP) in Sri Lanka D.E.W. Gunasekera, Secretary to the Democratic Left Front (DLF) Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF) Wimal Weerawansa.

They had also pointed out that since the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) are in the National Executive Council, these political parties cannot be considered to be parties in the Opposition.

They had also said that a political party representing the government was not entitled to that office and would set a wrong precedent.

Currenty, Leader of the Opposition Nimal Siripala de Silva has said there were no obstacle to his continuation in that office. Sources said that de Silva had also pointed out to the Speaker that he was well qualified for that office.

Meanwhile, leader of the TNA parliamentary group R. Sampanthan had informed the Speaker that the most suitable party in the opposition to take over the post of Leader of Opposition was the TNA.

Leader of the EPDP Douglas Devananda had stated to the Speaker that he was against giving the post of opposition leader to the TNA. Leader of the JVP parliamentary group Anura Kumara Dissanayake had informed the Speaker that as a group of SLFP MPs had accepted ministerial portfolios in the government, de Silva could not continue as the Opposition Leader.

Dissanayake had said that the most suitable person from among political parties representing the Opposition should be selected and appointed as the Opposition Leader.

Galle District Member of Parliament of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) Ajith Kumara had told the Speaker that the position could not be filled because none was legitimately qualified for that role . Since all political parties were either overtly or covertly supporting the government, he, together with the people of the country were in the process of inheriting that office.

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa is expected to inform Parliament of his decision on 7 April as to who the Opposition Leader will be.

(Ceylon Today)