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Legal action against MPs skipping parliamentary sessions?

parliment emptyCivil society organisations are planning to move the judiciary against elected members of parliament for repeatedly skipping parliamentary sessions.

 Convenor of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya said that civil society organisations had initiated discussions in the wake of the on-going controversy over the government’s failure to secure approval last Thursday (May 5) for a supplementary estimate for want of members at the time the vote was taken.

 Prof. Wijesooriya succeeded Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, who spearheaded a political campaign for the formation of Yahapalana government.

 Prof. Wijesooriya of the Sinhala Department of the University of Colombo said those who had been maintained at the taxpayers’ expense couldn’t shirk their responsibilities. He said he had been shocked by the fact that 163 members out of 225 hadn’t been present at the time of last Thursday’s voting.

He said what the MPs had done amounted to a violation of the people’s fundamental rights and parliamentarians were certainly not above the law.

The outspoken campaigner castigated the UNP and those SLFPers in the government for failing to ensure the participation of their members. They should be ashamed of neglecting their responsibilities, thereby failing to uphold the much touted good governance principles, he said.

 Asked to comment on the suspension of Palitha Thewarapperuma (UNP) and Upali Ranaweera (UPFA/MR faction) for exchanging blows in Parliament Prof. Wijesooriya said: "They would gladly accept the ruling. In fact, such decisions will only encourage violence."

Prof. Wijesooriya said that suspending members for a week was a big joke. Deeply disappointed he had inquired from Speaker Karu Jayasuriya failure on the part of Parliament to deal with Thewarapperuma and Ranaweera. Prof. Wijesooriya quoted Speaker Jayasuriya as having told him that members had been dealt with in accordance with the Standing Orders.  

Speaker Jayasuriya imposed one week suspension on a recommendation made by a committee headed by Deputy Speaker Tilanga Jayasuriya.

 Prof. Wijesooriya said that if Speaker Jayasooriya felt that existing Standing Orders weren’t adequate to rein in members, he should take immediate steps to amend them. The academic said that he couldn’t comprehend why the Standing Orders could not be amended urgently to deal with violence in Parliament.

The UNP-SLFP coalition should be ashamed of its failure to have required number of members to ensure the passage of supplementary estimate in spite of having over a two-thirds majority, Prof. Wijesooriya said.

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