Parliament is currently debating the Emergency Regulations imposed through the Proclamation made by the President under Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance, on the 30th of August.
Parliament convened at 10am under the patronage of Speaker of House Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.
Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena moved the motion pertaining to emergency regulations.
Commencing the debate, Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage said a Head of State has provisions to impose emergency regulations if a need arises to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens.
Minister Aluthgamage said the President has powers to impose the regulations for 14 days however it should be approved by Parliament to remain a law.
He said if the current Parliament deems necessary, provisions included in the existing emergency regulations can be amended.
Minister Aluthgamage noted Parliament should pass the resolution to address the current food crisis.
He noted that although the international media had extensively covered the current issue, depicting as Sri Lanka is facing a major food shortage, the Agriculture Minister stressed that the country is dealing only with the food mafia.
Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said Sri Lanka does not have a food shortage but major businessmen are concealing stocks of essential commodities.
He noted that the emergency regulations have been imposed in order to provide relief to the citizens who are burdened by the price hike.
The Minister vehemently denied attempts are made to militarise the country through new regulations.
Minister Aluthgamage assured that the regulations will not be misused under any circumstances.
Meanwhile, the opposition accused the government of attempting to use emergency regulations to silent dissent.
Parliamentarian Ranjith Madduma Bandara claimed that the government is not planning on using the regulations to impose price controls or contain the COVID-19 spread but to oppress opposition views.
MP Madduma Bandara said despite various claims, the present government has not been able to ensure a guaranteed price for the produce of farmers.
He said both the farmers and the consumers are burdened by the actions of the present administration adding only businessmen affiliated to the government have benefited.
MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara said the government has no intention of reducing prices of rice since two of the biggest rice mill owners are with the government at present.
He said using provisions of the Consumer Affairs Act, the government can reduce prices of essential commodities.
MP Madduma Bandara stressed that emergency regulations have been imposed to restrict trade union activities and to tackle any demonstrations.
The Parliamentarian requested the government to instead of hurling allegations at previous administrations, take necessary steps according to the law to ease the burden on the people and end the COVID-19 crisis.
Joining the debate, Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran said no faction can justify the decision to impose a State of Emergency in the country under the pretext of food supply issues.
MP Sumanthiran said they even have concerns over the way in which the emergency regulations have been imposed.
He said the government has deviated from usual practices to directly promulgate emergency regulations under Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance.
MP Sumanthiran said the government has not announced it is imposing emergency regulations, but has invoked articles to purportedly ensure food supply and control prices of essential commodities.
He said they have concerns that through the use of emergency regulations, whether the government will restrict the peoples’ right for freedom of expression, freedom of publication and freedom of association.
Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran requested one of the Ministers of the government to give assurance that the regulations will not be used to impede the freedoms of the citizens.
He said the country has not reached a situation to impose a State of Emergency and therefore requested the government to clarify why it is warranted at this juncture.
He also raised concerns why the Parliament should approve a bill which will hand over sole legislation powers to the Head of State to deal with a crisis.
MP Sumanthiran also added that Parliament will in future only be required to extend the State of Emergency once every 30 days.
He said therefore they have genuine concerns about ratifying the bill to approve the Emergency Regulations imposed through the Proclamation made by the President, on the 30th of August
Meanwhile, the bill to amend the Consumer Affairs Authority Act, No. 9 of 2003 was presented in Parliament today.