SLPP MP Ajith Rajapakse was elected as the new Deputy Speaker yesterday (17), following a secret ballot with a majority of 31 votes.
He was proposed by Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, and seconded by SLPP MP Samanpriya Herath.
The Opposition proposed SJB MP Rohini Kumari Wijerathna for the post. Her name was nominated by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and was seconded by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.
Wimal Weerawansa on behalf of the 10 coalition parties that became independent in Parliament recently urged the House to come up with one name for the post. SLFP Chairman Maithripala Sirisena and MP Chandima Weerakkody also expressed similar sentiments. They said that this election was being held at a huge expense and therefore to suggest only one name without opting for a secret ballot. The MPs said that they would make the votes invalid in protest of making the appointment of the Deputy Speaker a soap opera while the pubic openly reject Parliament.
SJB MPs Chaminda Wijesiri, Nalin Bandara, Mujibur Rahuman and several other MPs noted,
“Wijerathna is the most suitable person for this post. The Prime Minister also said that a female MP should be appointed. That is why we proposed her name. She is a renowned lady, a child rights activist and an active member of the House.”
MP Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle also said that Wijerathna was suitable for the post.
Following the arguments, the Speaker announced that unless one of the proposed names may be withdrawn, a vote has to be called for.
Accordingly, a secret ballot was taken in Parliament and 109 votes were cast in favour of Ajith Rajapakse and 78 favouring Rohini Kumari Wijerathna. There were 23 invalid votes and 13 Members of Parliament were recorded as absent.
Deputy Speaker of the Ninth Parliament Ranjith Siyambalapitiya recently resigned from his position and was subsequently re-elected to the post. Siyambalapitiya submitted his resignation again on 6 May, following wide public criticism.
After the results were announced, Wijerathna wished Rajapakse saying that may the latter be able to act impartially in the House.
“When I was subjected to verbal sexual harassment back then, Rajapakse was chairing the sittings. It is sad that a woman cannot hold main positions in Parliament even now. The Constitution states that gender equality must be ensured. But this Parliament is yet to adhere to that. Rajapaksa family instructed to defeat me because I spoke against their corruption. I thank all the MPs who voted for me. The Prime Minister also proposed to appoint a female MP as the Deputy Speaker. His proposal was defeated. This is the first defeat of Ranil Wickremesinghe after he accepted the post of PM. He will experience lots of failures in the future. It is clear that Rajapaksa family is still carrying out their agendas without respecting the people’s wishes,” she said.
BY Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake