Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena informed the House yesterday (24) that the privilege of making special statements on matters of urgent public interest would be available to only one leader of recognised political parties including the leader of the Opposition as per the provisions of the Standing Orders.
MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam was the leader of AITC but he could not be permitted to make a statement as the matter was sub judice, the Speaker said.
NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that they disagreed with the ruling of the Speaker. “We have been in this parliament for a long time and know of instances where the Speakers permitted party leaders to make special statements on issues of national importance and raise questions without any restrictions. I would like to know how you impose this restriction without even discussing with the party leaders.
The government sits on the right. The opposition sits on the left. The speaker’s chair is in the middle. But you are leaning to the right side. Do not take this opportunity away from party leaders. There have been three sitting weeks. So far I have not availed myself of the opportunity to make a special statement. That does not mean I will abandon my right to avail the opportunity. I hope to raise this matter at the next party leaders’ meeting.”
Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that not all parties in the Opposition had been allowed to make statements under the previous government. “We were not given that opportunity. The then Opposition got all the days for themselves without leaving us any. Besides, the matter with regard to MP Ponnambalam was different. It is not permitted because it is sub judice. MP Dissanayake’s observations are on a different matter.”
TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran: There is nothing sub judice in this matter. There is nothing before any court pending over the matter. The Speaker has no discretion to make such a ruling.
AITC MP Ponnambalam: Please allow me to make this statement. Either allow me to make the statement or suspend sittings so that we could have a party leaders’ meeting.
Leader of the House Minister Gunawardena: The Speaker has given a ruling. This matter cannot be raised, today. The party leaders meet on Friday and we can discuss the matter there.
Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella: The case in question is over. Someone has misled the Speaker.
SJB MP Harin Fernando: I bring to the notice of the Speaker the Standing Order 27.2. There is no restriction on the number of speeches made by party leaders. There is no reference stipulating the number of speeches.
Leader of the House Minister Gunawardena: The Speaker has given a ruling. If the Opposition is willing to allow him to make a statement then there is no problem. We have no intention of depriving MP Ponnambalam of his right. The party leaders are meeting tomorrow, we can decide it there. Otherwise, we have the option to put it to the House. We are ready. Put it to the House.
Justice Minister Ali Sabry: Standing Order 76.1 has clearly provided for an occasion like this. It says the Speaker in Parliament and the Chair in any committee shall be responsible for the observance of the rules of order in Parliament and Committee respectively and their decision upon any point of order shall not be open to appeal and shall not be reviewed by Parliament except upon a substantive motion made after notice. You as the Speaker have given a ruling. They could bring in a substantive motion to put the matter before the House. Otherwise, you review it at the party leaders’ meeting. (Coutresy: The Isalnd