( Sri Lanka MPs: they like to fight)
Poor attendances of members of parliament in its sessions came in to light when ruling coalition filed to pass a a supplementary estimate of Rs 55 mn for the government on 5th of May. Only 62 out of 225 members were present on that day. A single day’s parliamentary sittings cost the Sri Lankan taxpayer Rs. 4.6 mn. When JVP called for a vote government and opponents of the supplementary estimate both received 31 votes each. If TNA MPs absconded from voting government would have lost the vote.
The Island carried a full report of the incident:
Vote dispute: 163 out of 225 MPs missing; Speaker wants party leaders to take remedial action
by Shamindra Ferdinando
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, MP, yesterday said that it was the responsibility of party leaders to ensure the participation of their members in parliamentary proceedings.
Speaker Jayasuriya said that in case members skipped sessions it would be the responsibility of the respective leaders to take punitive action against them. The former UNP Deputy leader is on record as having said that a single day’s parliamentary sittings cost the Sri Lankan taxpayer Rs. 4.6 mn, and, therefore, MPs should bear in mind their responsibilities.
The Speaker was responding to a query by The Island whether he could take disciplinary action against those who hadn’t been present in parliament on Thursday (May 5) afternoon when a vote taken at the end of a debate to give approval for a supplementary estimate of Rs 55 mn for the government revealed only 62 members out of 225 were present.
The parliament was told 33 members voted for the supplementary estimate and 31 voted against. Both the Joint Opposition and the JVP strongly objected to the result. Alleging vote rigging, they demanded a recount. After several recounts, the Secretary General of Parliament and political party representatives agreed that there had been 31 votes each for and against the supplementary estimate.
Had members of the UNP-SLFP coalition been present on that day, the supplementary estimate could have been passed without any issue, Speaker Jayasuriya said.
The UNP parliamentary group comprises 106 members plus one SLMC MP.
The SLFP group backing the UNP comprises 46 members. The rebel SLFP-led UPFA group comprises 49 members, including former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Speaker expressed serious concern over continuing low turnaround at parliamentary sessions. Parliament meets eight days a month. According to him, the situation at some Provincial Councils was worse for want of a system to ensure participation.
Asked whether the offending members could be dealt under the code of conduct for the members of parliament, Speaker Jayasuriya said the draft of the proposed code of conduct had been made available to all members of parliament. Once the members state their positions, the proposed code of conduct could be adopted, the Speaker said. In respect of attendance, the draft proposed: “Every member shall attend every sitting of the House and meeting of the committee of which he or she is a member, in accordance with practice of the House, except with reasonable excuse, or in the case of extended absence, if excused in accordance with the practice of the House.”
Political sources pointed out that the TNA rescued the government by voting for the supplementary estimate.
Most of the Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers hadn’t been present at the time the vote was taken. At the end of the debate Chief Opposition Whip JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake called for a division.
Having campaigned against the previous administration, the UNP obviously didn’t expect JVP leader Dissanayake to cause an unnecessary crisis by calling for a division. Many an eyebrow was raised at the JVP backing the Joint Opposition against the government.
The Yahapalana government conducted various lessons for members as well as parliamentary staff recently to improve their participation in the process