BY Methmalie Dissanayake8855

Parliament Sitting boiled over yesterday (10) following the Opposition demanding Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to summon Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who had been absent since 10 December 2021,  to the Chamber to make a ministerial statement on the country’s economic situation. 

In response, the Speaker said that he cannot force a minister to make a ministerial statement. However, there is provision to take disciplinary action against an MP if he/she fails to attend sessions for three months, he added. 

Chief Opposition Whip, Lakshman Kiriella, who raised a Point of Order, stressed that Rajapaksa has failed to attend Parliamentary Sittings for the past three months to provide answers to the MPs’ questions. 

Kiriella: “There is an economic crisis in the country. Yet the Finance Minister has failed to attend Parliamentary Sittings since 10 December 2021. He has not spoken a single word in this Chamber. This is totally unacceptable. He should be here to provide answers to our questions. We request the Speaker to summon him to Parliament immediately.  If he has time to go around the World begging for money, we cannot believe that he has no time to attend Parliament. It is reported that Sri Lanka even asked a USD 300 million loan from Russia which is in the middle of a war. What a shame! As per the Article 148 of the Constitution, Parliament has the controlling powers of public finances.”

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena demanded that Kiriella withdraw the statement. 

All the questions raised by the MPs expecting answers from the Finance Minister have been responded to by the State Finance Minister on behalf of the Minister. Even debates have been conducted in this House on documents tabled by the Finance Ministry. The Finance Minister came to the House from time to time. It is wrong to state that he did not come to parliament, he asserted. 

SJB MP Nalin Bandara: “Ukrainian President addressed their Parliament while fighting a war.”

SLPP MP Jayantha Ketagoda: “The Finance Minister came to the Chamber. Were you sleeping at that time?”

Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando: “The questions for the Finance Minister have been answered fully by the State Minister of Finance. MP Kiriella says that his country has gone bankrupt. You had been stating that the economy would collapse after 1 January this year. Arrangements even had been made to come live on Facebook when the country’s economy collapsed. Did that happen? Kiriella only stands up at the commencement of sittings thinking that his face would be shown on TV. Everybody knows that the Finance Minister is controlling the economy well.”

The Speaker: “I cannot force a Minister to make statements in the Chamber. If an MP is absent for the sittings for three months, he will lose his Parliamentary seat as per Standing Orders.”