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Debate ensues in Parliament over Basil’s three-month absence

  • Opposition urges disciplinary action while Government MPs rally in his defence

A debate ensued between Government and Opposition MPs over Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa having not attended Parliament sessions for three months.

It began when Chief Opposition Whip MP Lakshman Kiriella charged that since the Finance Minister had failed to make any statement in the Parliamentary House for three months, as per the parliamentary rules, disciplinary action must be taken against him, as his last sitting was on 10 December 2021.

In response, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena claimed that he had no right to force any minister to make a statement in the House, while there are provisions for taking disciplinary action against an MP if he or she fails to attend sessions for three months.

Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that this allegation could not be raised against the Finance Minister, as all questions posed by MPs in Parliament were answered by the relevant state ministers who spoke on behalf of the Finance Minister.

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando argued that despite not making a statement within the Parliamentary House, Finance Minister Rajapaksa had spoken to the media and public outside and all statements made were debated in Parliament thereafter, thus adding that Rajapaksa’s presence was not necessary.

He further charged that it was wrong for the Chief Opposition Whip and Opposition MPs to say that the Finance Minister did not present reports to the House regularly.

Minister Fernando said: “How many times has the Opposition Leader raised questions under the Standing Order 27/2 to be answered by the Finance Minister? All those questions were answered fully by the State Minister of Finance as per the Finance Minister’s instructions. MP Kiriella says that his country has gone bankrupt. 

“I would like to recall the conduct of finance ministers during the times of your Government. One of them resigned and did not contest for the election. Another has lost the election. There was one State Minister of Finance who did not face the election and came to Parliament through the national list. That was how the finance ministers of your Government fared.”

He further charged: “MP Kiriella stands up at the commencement of sittings thinking that he would capture TV time. The TVs do not telecast them. That is the truth. He is my friend. He is fighting a major battle to get media exposure. The issue raised by him today is also the same. Everybody knows that the Finance Minister is controlling the economy well.”