Govt. benches empty in parliament to respond to questions

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By Rose Kenny

Not a single question out of 15 listed for ministers to answer during the questions session in parliament was answered today due to the absence of Ministers.

During the round of questions for Oral answers, opposition ranks raised the questions, but Leader of the House Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development  Minister Lakshman Kiriella had to seek additional time or table the responses except for one question which was re-directed to a different ministry.

At the end of the session JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake said that this would go down in Sri Lankan parliamentary history as the darkest day because there wasn’t a single minister to respond to the questions raised by MPs.

“We may have this parliament only for one more month. The questions listed in the order paper have been there for such a long time that some of them are more than one year old. Now the government is asking for additional time. At this rate these questions would never be answered,” the MP said.

Leader of the House Minister Kiriella agreeing with the concerns raised by the opposition noted that UNP Leader leader Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe repeatedly adviced  MPs and Ministers that they should be present in the House. “They have been told to give priority to parliamentary affairs over any other matter. The ministers should listen to him and be here to respond to queries of MPs.”

UNP Colombo District MP MSM Marikkar said, “We raise these questions on behalf of our electorate. It is our duty to raise their questions here. It is one of the purposes for them to elect us. When we are deprived of the opportunity to get answers because of the absence of Ministers, it is a violation of our rights. Actually this amounts to breach of our parliamentary privileges. This matter has been brought to the notice of the Speaker and party leaders many times, but the Ministers continue to skip sittings.”

UPFA Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekera quipped,  “I think all UNP ministers who are absent  are all in Kurunegala. The UNP is troubled by a dispute because they cannot determine who their candidate for the presidential polls would be. They should sort out that problem. There is no point in going all over the country without decision. It is because of that problem that the government ranks are absent today.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Ananda Kuamrasiri said that the matter could be taken up at the party leaders’ meeting and a solution could be discussed at that meeting.