The opposition charges Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa of not addressing Parliament in three months regarding the country’s financial situation. Speaking in Parliament Chief Opposition Whip Parliamentarian Lakshman Kiriella claimed the country is bankrupt.
MP Kiriella said however the last time the Finance Minister addressed Parliament was on the 10th of December last year. He claimed all sectors in the country are severely affected at present. MP Kiriella said Minister Basil Rajapaksa presented facts to the government Parliamentary group and called on the Speaker of House to issue an order calling for the Finance Minister to address Parliament regarding the country’s financial situation.
Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena meanwhile claimed the Finance Minister attended several Parliament sessions and responded to any questions that were asked. MP Lakshman Kiriella said however according to the Hansard, the last time the Finance Minister addressed Parliament was on the 10th of December.
MP Kiriella added the Finance Minister is visiting several countries begging for funds and requested USD 300 million from Russia as well and questioned if he has no shame. Meanwhile MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha said the Ukrainian President addressed the Ukrainian Parliament amidst the invasion of Russia and therefore urged the Speaker to issue an order to Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa to attend Parliament sessions.
In response Speaker of House Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana said he does not have the authority to order a Member of Parliament to attend Parliament. The Speaker said under Standing Orders disciplinary action can be taken against a MP if they do not attend sessions for three months adding the Speaker does not have authority to order a Parliamentarian to speak in Parliament as well.
Joining the debate, Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva said he was in a queue at a filling station for over 1 ½-hours to obtain diesel with no success. MP de Silva said the country is facing shortages of essential items including fuel, medicines, milk powder, and gas adding that scheduled power cuts are further burdening the public. He said the Minister of Finance has failed to attend Parliament session to discuss matters.
The Parliamentarian said according to a report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the foreign reserve balance is negative. He said there is a deficit of USD 2.5 billion in foreign debt compared to the Central Bank’s foreign income.
The MP said unfortunately this suggests that the Central Bank is bankrupt. MP de Silva said irrespective of political alliances, as Sri Lankans it is unfortunate to witness the present financial situation.
He said all individuals must come together to seek a solution to the present crisis. MP de Silva said several MPs including Eran Wickramaratne, Kabir Hashim, and himself held a discussion with CBSL Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal yesterday on ways to deal with the current situation.
The MP said every aspect does not need to be politicised adding they have accepted responsibility on behalf of the public. He urged the government to listen to their proposals.
A newspaper article on a situation that arose in the Parliament canteen over liquid milk was taken up for debate in Parliament today. Speaking in Parliament today, Parliamentarian Nalin Bandara Jayamaha called on the Speaker of the House to conduct an investigation into the incident adding everyone has a collective responsibility to resolve the issue.
Joining the debate, MP Jayantha Ketagoda said a discussion was held with the Director of the canteen and other employees who denied such an incident occurring. The MP said there are adequate stocks of liquid milk.
He said the newspaper article on the matter concerns the self-respect of all 225 MPs. MP Ketagoda requested the Speaker to summon the editors of the newspaper and conduct an investigation.
Meanwhile, MP Chaminda Wijesiri said the public is aware of the daily expenses of Parliament. He said there is no shortage of gas in Parliament adding however the public is facing difficulties in purchasing gas.
Responding, MP Ketagoda said they do not attend Parliament with the hope of eating. He said the canteen must be closed claiming they will bring food from home.
MP Wijesiri agreed with the proposal to close the Parliament canteen and called for resources to be distributed among the public. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana said he deeply regrets the incident adding they have observed actions of misusing democracy and posting false articles attacking Members of Parliament and the Parliament as a whole.
The Speaker said he will call for a report on the matter and inform Parliament of necessary action after directing the report to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee.