Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC, yesterday (10) found fault with Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena for the way he had handled the disciplinary inquiry in respect of State Minister of Tourism, Diana Gamage.
Speaker Abeywardena had set a very bad precedent, Minister Rajapakshe who also holds prison affairs and constitutional reforms, said, stressing the responsibility on the part of the Parliament to avert a similar situation in the future.
The Minister said so when The Island sought his opinion on Speaker Abeywardena discarding recommendation made by a five-member committee that inquired into the unruly behaviour of three Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MPs, namely Diana Gamage, Rohana Bandara, and Sujith Sanjaya Perera outside the chamber on Oct 20. “The Speaker surprised the vast majority of members by rejecting recommendations made by a committee appointed by him. He certainly owed an explanation,” Minister Rajapakshe said.
The committee consisted of Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa, former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Gayantha Karunathilaka, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar, and Ramesh Pathirana.
Dr. Rajapakse emphasised that he explained to the House how the Speaker erred in his decision in this regard. Having received the recommendations of the Deputy Speaker’s Committee, Speaker Abeywardena then sent it to the Ethics and Privileges Committee for a final decision, Minister Rajapakse said.The Ethics and Privileges Committee, chaired by Chamal Rajapaksa, has discarded the recommendation that State
Minister Gamage and Rohana Bandara will be suspended for three months and one month, respectively whereas Sujith Sanjaya Perera will be issued a warning.The Ethics and Privileges Committee has recommended that all three be suspended for a month with effect from December 2. They’ll not be able to vote for the third reading of the budget on Wednesday (13).
Minister Rajapakshe said that Chamal Rajapaksa, having served the Deputy Speaker’s five-member committee subsequently dismissed his own recommendations as the head of the Ethics and Privileges Committee.
Having entered parliament on the main Opposition SJB National List Diana Gamage switched allegiance to the SLPP in Oct 2020 when she voted for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga said that Speaker Abeywardena should have accepted Minister Rajapakshe’s proposal for Premier Dinesh Gunawardena and SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa to discuss the issues at hand with the three SJB MPs concerned. Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that they could have reached a consensus on this matter as the SJB leader, too, appreciated the Justice Minister’s proposal. Unfortunately, Speaker Abeywardena called a vote on the Ethics and Privilege Committee’s recommendation that all three be suspended for a month each, MP Cumaratunga.
Of the 225-member Parliament, only 61 members were present at the time of the vote, and of them, 57 voted for the suspension of the MPs, one against, and three skipped the vote. MP Cumaratunga said that opposition members walked out of the chamber before the vote was taken.
The leader of the House, Susil Premjayantha, is on record as having told parliament on that day that he was not involved at all in Speaker Abeywardena’s decision.
Pointing out the controversial roles played by Chamal Rajapaksa in Deputy Speaker’s Committee and Ethics and Privileges Committee, SJB National List MP Imtiaz Bakeer Markar asked whether Parliament was under the influence of a hidden hand. The former minister pointed out the danger such manoeuvring posed to Parliament (the island).